VII – Battle for Haven
Haven – Police Plaza: War Room
The dimming lights flickered randomly as tremors shook the walls, the rumble of an impending doom growing as it neared, a monster that was just out of sight, but so close that one could nearly touch it. Smoke hung over the ceiling, further concealing the overhead lamps, casting a deep gloom over the area which was painted a sickly crimson by the emergency alarms. Despite the chaos that was virtually everywhere, the room was quiet, almost devoid of movement or conversation, as though it were becoming a tomb that was only home to the silent dead. Only a handful of fairies were present, operating the bare essentials with noiseless determination, and an ever growing sense of despair. Commander Trouble Kelp stood alone by the holo-table, watching with hard eyes as the city was slowly consumed, their last vestiges of hope crumbling like dust. They had lost all contact with Holly, who was in no better shape than they were, their chances of regaining control lost with her. Trouble didn’t know if she was alive or dead, her vital signs too being cut off by the hostile jamming signals. She was the best that they had, the greatest officer one could hope for, and he had the utmost confidence in her. But now, with the world crashing down around them, he couldn’t help but feel the tendrils of doubt and ruin snake their way into his conscience, telling him with their hissing tongues that all was lost.
Is this really it? Is this how it ends? Has everything been destined to fall in fire and blood? Is that the hand that fate has dealt us all? He shook his head, grimacing once more as he pushed the thoughts from his mind, though they still waited just outside his reach, ready to come forth again. Haven was overrun, their forces nearly annihilated by the evil that was consuming the city with dreadful ferocity. Right now, they were holding a weak line just outside the Plaza’s perimeter, a line so fragile that it could break at any moment, a brittle twig against a marauding beast.
Trouble looked once more at the battle map, his gaze holding one last time on the terminal where Holly was before turning away completely. Foaly was seated by his makeshift ops booth, working with an almost possessed dedication, furiously trying to gain some semblance of control over Haven’s defense grid whilst he monitored Holly’s nonexistent signal, in denial that she may very well be gone forever. Tears were falling down the centaur’s cheeks, his weary bloodshot eyes wide with a sad determination, the hope visibly draining by the minute like water down a pipe.
Kelp walked up behind him, as solemn as he was. “Foaly.” He addressed.
The centaur kept working, oblivious to the elf behind him, his eyes not leaving the screens for an iota of a second.
“Foaly?” Trouble pressed, growing worried for his friend.
He kept typing, muttering rapidly to himself as his eyes shot sporadically from one screen to the next. “Holly…is fine…just need to…to…to repair signals…revert auxiliary power from…nonessential systems to…defense grid repairs…everything’s fine…Holly’s fine…just need to…”
“Foaly!” The Commander yelled, grabbing the panicking centaur by the shoulder and pulling him away from the consoles. Foaly yelped in surprise, almost falling over from the sudden action. Trouble held him firm, grasping both his shoulders tightly as he looking into his eyes.
“Foaly! Get a hold of yourself!” Trouble yelled once more, trying to break the centaur from his state of panick.
He went on. “We need to help Holly! She’s out there and…and…and we can’t contact her! I just need more time, and maybe I can break their jamming signals, get through to her. She’s fine I know, but I-I-I just can’t leave her on her own!”
“Snap out of it!” Trouble commanded, smacking him across the face, though only moderately.
Foaly brought up his hands, holding them to where Kelp had hit, his ranting ceased abruptly. After a moment, his hands fell away, revealing an awake and in control face, though one still plagued with emotion.
“I’m sorry, I don’t know what came over me. I just…lost it.” He said apologetically, very much taken aback by his own loss of control.
“Don’t sweat it, I think we’re all losing it to some degree.” Trouble replied. “Though we must remain in control, we can’t afford to lose ourselves now.”
Foaly looked back to the consoles, to the scrambled feed that was Holly’s, melancholy and worry on his face. “What about Holly?”
The Commander’s visage tightened, his grimace coming again as he felt something deep inside him begin to grow cold, as though he were losing a part of himself. “I don’t know…There’s no way we can know for sure but…I believe in her.”
His eyes turned to the static feed. “I believe in her.”
A massive explosion shook the building, black smoke seeping through the cracks of one of the doors as sirens blared anew, the red emergency lights flashing brightly throughout the darkened room. Trouble didn’t even flinch, instead he stood silent, thinking deeply about something that he hated greatly, but that he knew was necessary.
“Foaly.” He said solidly, his voice hard and grim. “What’s the status on our remaining bio bomb munitions?”
The centaur paled slightly, knowing what was coming. “They’re fully deployed, awaiting the signal.”
“Good.” The Commander said quietly, anger in his voice. He walked over to the wall where a row of pulse assault rifles were lined, picking one up fluidly, feeling the powerful weapon in his hands. “I am handing control of the plaza to you, Foaly. In the event that we are overrun, I am trusting you to begin the sequence. When they break through this door, you touch off those bombs, and send those bastards to hell.”
Foaly simply nodded, at a loss for words.
Trouble smiled slightly, catching the centaur off guard. “It’s been an honor serving with you my friend.” He said as he extended his hand to him.
Foaly looked at it for a moment before taking it in his own, grasping it firmly. “It’s been an honor working with you too Trouble.”
The elf nodded appreciatively, releasing his hand, bringing it to bear on his rifle. “Bring up the comm link for me, I’d like to address my officers.”
Foaly complied, activating the comm network to all personnel.
Trouble brought up the mic, waiting a moment before he began. “This is Commander Trouble Kelp to all LEP forces. I am calling you now to issue my one and final order, and that is this. Keep fighting, no matter what. Let us take as many of these monsters down as possible, let us fight to the last man, let us die for all that we hold dear. Let us not forsake our brothers and sisters, instead let us hold true to our commitment to the People till our dying breath.”
The Commander paused for a moment, a look of great pride and determination on his face. “You are all officers of extraordinary caliber, men and women that I take great pride in calling my comrades. It has been my greatest honor to serve alongside each and every one of you. I will be with you shortly.”
With that the elf put down the mic, staring off into space for a fleeting moment, remembering all of the officers that had been lost, and of all the ones that still fought. He thought of his family, his hopes, his dreams, and all that life had given him. Death had come knocking, so be it.
With one final nod to Foaly, Trouble made his way out of the room, fire in his eyes as he approached the ever rising sounds of war.
Haven – LEP Perimeter
The remnants of the downtown core burned, the ruined buildings now charred skeletons of their former selves, riddled with destruction. As far as the eye could see was chaos and war, an endless struggle that squeezed the city in its dreadful clutches, crushing the very life from it. The skies were lit crimson by the fighting below, the lighting network long since lost, leaving the emergency backup and the flames themselves as the only source of illumination. The air was congested with bright tracers, laser blasts and rockets as they careened into the shattered defensive line, from which came an ever dwindling response. Daemons crowded the streets, using rubble and burnt out vehicles as cover as they dealt death without emotion or discretion. Tanks rumbled beside them, blasting the defenders inexorably as gunships flew overhead, spraying the earth below with a ruthless stream of projectiles, their engines shrieking with a hellish scream.
A loud explosion rocked the square, disintegrating the foundation of the already heavily damaged Haven stock exchange, sending stone flying in all directions as the twenty story building collapsed in on itself in a deadly cloud of dust and flame, casting debris across the wide expanse of the war zone.
Butler grimaced slightly as the structure fell onto several LEP positions, no doubt crushing numerous officers with it’s massive bulk. Things were not going well, not well at all. Butler had reached the front lines only ten minutes ago, yet it felt as though he had been there for hours, the passing of time distorted by the relentless combat. He had long since expended the ammunition for his machine guns, now opting for the AK47 that he had picked up earlier in the plaza. The barrel smoked profusely as he removed the empty magazine, pulling another from his pocket and ramming it home into the gun. He pulled the slide back with a satisfying mechanical sound, putting a fresh round into the chamber of the rifle. He’d grown quite fond of the old thing over the last few minutes, though he always had an appreciation for the firearm. The rifle was the perfect tool, dealing high caliber rounds with an apparatus that was powerful, efficient and simple, and it never jammed.
The bodyguard was huddled behind a makeshift barrier, accompanied by several dozen officers. They had been pushed back from their previous position not too long ago, being forced to retreat by a literal wave of hostiles. Such was the case for most LEP operatives in the area. The front lines had been reduced by a good fifty percent in less than fifteen minutes, leaving their forces crammed into an ever shrinking area. They had no options, they were completely outgunned and severely outnumbered by the marauding forces, and had no means of holding the lines against a foe that held both land and air superiority.
Only two blocks away from them was the police plaza, which was represented by a pillar of smoke. The enemy had recently opened up with long range artillery, bombarding LEP positions both at the front and in the reserves. The HQ had been hit pretty hard by the last salvo, leaving parts of it smoldering from the incendiary shells, further crippling their defensive capabilities. It was getting to the point where everyone knew the inevitability of their defeat, their demise now a certainty. But that didn’t stop the fairies, for they were willing to give their lives for the People, fully prepared for the cold embrace of death should it prolong the lives of those they held dear. Such character touched Butler deeply, their sense of duty of such purity that it made him proud to fight alongside them.
Another explosion rocked the ground on which they stood, followed by a growing rumble, the sound of hundreds of boots striking the earth at once. Over the choir of heavy combat Butler heard the rising roars coming from the hostile positions, getting closer by the moment.
The bodyguard looked to the officers around him, bellowing above the madness. “Their sending another charge! Get ready!”
As everyone scrambled to their positions, Butler checked his weapon, making sure it was perfectly functional, which it of course was. He quickly moved over to the edge of the barrier, resting his rifle on the top of the stone rubble, peering down the sights with a professional gaze. Let them come! He thought confidently, his finger hovering over the trigger, ready to pull at a moment’s notice. Across the ruined wasteland before him rose a cloud of dust, the sound of footfalls growing steadily, though not yet in visual sight. Butler breathed slowly, his mind calm and in control, and his body at ease. There was no fear in his eyes, only determination, not a single doubt entering his mind. Such things didn’t sway him now, not in the least, for he was ready for any horrors that the battlefield threw his way, he was prepared for everything, even death. This was what he did best, though deep inside he wished that such actions were not needed in the world, that there could be a place free from conflict, absent from war and strife. But he knew that such was far from possible now. The world was filled with evil, forever perforated by it’s darkness, always having to face it head on. There needed to be those who would stand against the forces of evil, heroes who would fight and die so that others could live lives that were truly free and full of hope. Hope…how short it was now, a stump that was once a great tree, now cut down and burned away. But the stump still remained, and with it came the chance that it will grow anew, that the seedlings that had fallen with it would grow into trees of their own, rising once more. Butler believed in such hope, that even the slightest of glimmer could blossom into a star, and he would fight for that to the ends of the earth, to his dying breath. He didn’t want to be a hero, he didn’t desire fame or fortune or greatness, all he wanted was to give a chance to this world, to save those who could not save themselves from the foe they now faced. As he watched the dust rise from the charging army, he remembered his duty, both to his friends and to the People. He would not fail them.
Over the rise came the rumbling of the inevitable, the impending tide. Everyone readied their weapons, waiting silently for the enemy to appear. Suddenly, figures began to take shape through the smoke and dust that filled the air, their weapons visible amidst the cloud. Even more came up behind them, easily numbering in the hundreds if not thousands. They couldn’t exactly see the LEP officers before them, not yet, but the fairies could see them just fine. With a deep roar, Butler called out to those around him. “Open fire!”
At once, they fired their weapons, sending the neutrino and pulse rounds flying into the advancing force. The attackers dropped like flies, being cut down by the dug in defenders, but such was what the enemy expected, as they were all very replaceable. Butler held down the trigger of his rifle, bullets blasting from the barrel as the weapon recoiled and spent casings flew from the chamber, clattering onto the ground harmoniously. He saved his ammo, putting one round into each opponent, perfectly placed each time to ensure immediate death. But such skill meant little against an enemy so brutal and numerous. Even as the officers fired into their ranks, they kept coming, too many for them to eliminate. It was like using a spoon to try and bale out a sinking ship, it just wasn’t enough.
The smoke had cleared by now, revealing the full scope of the force before them. There were easily a thousand daemons moving in on them, along with several dozen tanks and equally as many gunships above. There was no way they could hold the line against such a charge, it would be over in seconds.
As Butler was about to reload, a faint whistling sound came from above, growing into a loud shriek. “Artillery, get down!” He yelled, throwing himself into the nearest blast hole he could find, covering his head protectively. As the other officers dove for cover, a shell landed amongst them, exploding in a cloud of debris and fire. The destruction washed over Butler, who was safe in his foxhole, before dissipating. He rose cautiously, dusting himself off with one had as he held his rifle with the other. Around him, most of the LEP officers were still standing, though several had been caught in the blast and had paid the price. More whistling began to rise above them, meaning all too clear that they had to move, and fast.
“They have our position zeroed in, pull back!” The bodyguard commanded as he fired into the advancing horde. The officers around him did so swiftly, sprinting from their compromised position towards their last defensive line near the plaza. Butler followed them, just barely missing the inbound salvo. As he cleared the area with rocket speed, the entire city block which they had occupied exploded violently, the shock wave shaking the very earth.
Butler kept running, just behind the officers as they made their way to the final defensive line. All across Haven, the other LEP forces were doing the same, the entire front line demolished by the combined enemy assault. Overhead, a gunship burst through the pillar of smoke that rose from the ruined line, flying directly towards Butler. He couldn’t take it down, that was for sure, so he sucked in a deep breath and pushed himself even harder, trying to outrun the ship before it opened fire. As he ran through the ruins, the gunship sprayed a salvo of cannon rounds, narrowly missing the human as he dodged the attack. It fired again, this time with several rockets, sending them barreling towards the bodyguard. Butler saw them coming, diving over a civilian vehicle before ducking behind it, praying that it would be enough. The explosion blasted the car, and Butler, across the street, sending him rolling into a pile of wreckage. He was, by some sort of a miracle, alive. He had several deep lacerations in his arms and back, but he ignored them, the pain simply an impertinent distraction that he would have nothing to do with.
He looked up to see the gunship approaching him again. This time there was no way he could run, escape wasn’t an option. Butler glared at the ship, pulling out his Sig Sauer smoothly, standing in defiance against the flying monstrosity. He fired again, and again, and again. He shot until the gun was empty, the explosive response from the trigger pull replaced by a pathetic click. The rounds pinged sharply off the armored plates that protected the shuttle, the ship still approaching menacingly. The bodyguard moved to make some sort of escape, one that he knew was futile, but tried nonetheless. He heard the whirring of its auto-cannons as they began to spin, the missiles as they were loaded into the launchers, and the engines as they shrieked. Just as it was about to fire, the noises ceased, replaced by a huge explosion. Butler turned to see the craft fall into the street, half of it completely disintegrated. The ship crashed into the ground, sending flames into the sky as it’s reactor overloaded, blasting its remains into oblivion.
Butler turned his attention from the ruined ship to the far end of the street, revealing dozens of LEP officers. The foremost of them was Commander Kelp, who was holding something that was akin to a missile launcher, but a hundred times more advanced. Some of the fairies with him were the ones from the front line, however most of them appeared to be from the reserves. They’d finally been forced to put all remaining forces into the fight, there was no room for holding back.
The bodyguard approached the Commander quickly, putting his Sig Sauer back into its holster. “Thanks for the help, I owe you one.” The man said thankfully.
“I’d like to think that we’re even now.” Trouble replied, lowering the bulky weapon casually.
Butler scanned over the officers behind him. “I take it we’re on our last legs then, given that the reserves are deployed and that you are here and not in the police plaza.” Butler stated neutrally.
“You could say that.” The Commander said. “I’ve given Foaly control over HQ, he’s got the green light to touch off the bio bombs should we be overrun.” The elf looked into the distance briefly. “We’re going to make our stand by the plaza, all of our other positions have been overrun or cut off. Care to join us Butler?”
“With pleasure.” The man mountain said strongly. He looked at all of the heavily armed officers before him. “I need a weapon.”
Trouble grinned. “There’s plenty to go around.” He said, tossing a pulse rifle to the human, who grabbed it instinctively.
They quickly made their way to the police plaza, the sounds of the incoming enemy getting closer by the second. Anti-aircraft fire came up from the HQ, shooting down any gunships that came too close ahead of the main hostile force, buying the infantry some time to pull back to their final positions. Butler and Trouble reached the plaza, which was filled with activity. Almost all of the LEP’s remaining units were present, as well as numerous reservists. It was a considerable force, but nothing compared to what they had started with. Soldier’s made preparations whilst medics treated the ubiquitous wounded, though without magic only so much could be done. Bodies were lined in rows by the HQ, covered respectfully with white blankets. It was a somber scene, one that accentuated the fact that they would not make it through the next twenty minutes.
The sound of the armored hulks that the daemons used came through the streets, accompanied by the infantry’s footfalls and the gunship’s engines above.
“They’re here!” Trouble yelled through his comm link. “All units, to your stations!”
As the near depleted forces ran to their positions, Butler and Kelp raced to their own, taking up position in the front most series of barriers. Beside them was Corporal Grub Kelp, his weapon ready and his face adamant. He nodded to Trouble, who clasped him on the shoulder. It was almost surreal seeing Grub in such character, as though he wasn’t the elf Butler had faced all those years ago. He remembered the time at Fowl manor when he had neutralized the entire LEP retrieval team save Grub, he’d never seen such an unprofessional soldier in his entire life. Yet now, he saw the exact opposite. Boy how things have changed. The man thought bemusedly, still taken off guard by the seemingly paradoxical elf beside him.
The noise of the advancing army drew his attention once more to the no man’s land before him, the smoke and debris concealing the massive force that was closing in. Together, the three of them waited as death made its final approach.
Artemis sat there in his cavernous prison, watching the screens with tearful eyes. Holly was surrounded, and even though Artemis considered himself optimistic in most situations, he knew this one was hopeless. But even with that looming certainty of death, he watched as Holly stood defiantly to meet the enemy, her stature one of pure pride and certainty, an utter sense of confidence flowing from her. Around her, the other officers did the same, willing to follow her to the depths of hell. It was an awe inspiring show of courage and character, one that Artemis knew only Holly could achieve. He could have sworn he saw a smile on her face through her visor, not one of sadness or anger or fear, but of pure contentment. He coughed despite himself, choking against the oppressing collar as he held back his tears, which were flowing faster than he could blink them away, an unrelenting tide.
“Goodbye Holly.” Artemis said quietly, his voice shaking with sadness, but also an enormous degree of pride for his friend.
Opal sat on her throne, oblivious to Artemis’ emotion, consuming truffles illiberally as she watched the scene before them with pure delight.
“That’s right elf,” she hissed venomously. “Die like a hero, but know you’ll be buried like an animal.”
The sound of the hanger bay played over the speakers, catching every audiological detail along with the video feed; it was like a front row seat to the apocalypse. All of the screens were focused on Holly, depicting every angle possible of the LEP officer with superb clarity, as though one could reach out and touch her battered form and feel the dented surface of her armor. It made Artemis feel so much worse, as it seemed as though his best friend was mere feet away from him, and yet she was so far away, so far from him.
The daemon army began its advance, forming an intricate phalanx out of bayoneted weapons and heavy armor. As one the massive force moved forward, the rumble of their steps ringing methodically as they marched to some unheard beat, steady and tauntingly slow, holding their fire as though they were tormenting their prey with the creeping approach of death. But the fairies stood firm, resolute, utterly confident alongside their leader, prepared to meet doom with a grin. Holly stood dead still, not moving a muscle in the face of destruction, as if it were but air, a worthless obstacle.
Artemis didn’t even think of closing his eyes, he wouldn’t let himself hide. Despite being so far away, he felt that as long as he looked into her eyes, he would be there beside her, together as they always were, facing the vicissitudes of fate with ease.
As he watched the screens as they displayed the approach of the inevitable, a faint noise began to rise above the others, separating itself from the sounds of menacing annihilation. It began to slowly piece itself together from random tones into a flowing tune, like a puzzle being completed. Opal noticed it too, a look of annoyance on her face. “What is that irritating noise? It’s ruining a perfect moment!”
Artemis’ eyes widened in recognition, his eyebrow rising curiously. “The opening of act III of Die Walküre, composed by Richard Wagner in 1851, more commonly known as Ride of the Valkyries.”
Opal grumbled something unintelligible, glaring at the screen.
As the music got louder, so did Artemis’ certainty in his suspicion, which lit a candle of hope in his heart.
Haven Terminal – Hangar Bay
As the music slowly rose, the daemon army stopped uncertainly, looking around for the source of the unforeseen vexation. Holly and the other officers were equally as perplexed, though they didn’t take their eyes off of the enemy.
A low rumbling noise began to grow from within the chute, the music growing even louder as numerous other sounds began to rise with it, reverberating off of the chute’s walls, echoing around the hangar bay in an epic tone. Holly backed behind the damaged shuttle again, turning around to view the massive expanse of the tunnel with curious eyes, as did the other officers. Were those engines she heard?
A voice rose over the sound of the music, bellowing confidently above the rumbling with a slight amount of glee, though not enough to fully detect.
“Captain, you may want to take cover.” Said the familiar Russian articulation.
On cue, dozens of black aircraft rose slowly from below the edge, their engines roaring with hunger. As Holly watched with awe, one massive craft rose directly in front of her, the command bridge visible through the window. Inside stood a familiar figure, who gave a mock salute. Holly grinned as she turned to her officers. “Everybody hit the floor!”
Just as they did so the song reached its climax, complementing the sonata of destruction that was about to be conducted. The hundreds of daemons pointed their weapons at the aircraft, firing relentlessly at the fleet before them. The rounds pinged off of the ships harmlessly, their heavy armor and reactive shields deflecting the monsoon of lead and laser as a bear shrugs off a fly. After a short moment, the fleet gave its own warm welcome to the daemons. As one, like a symphony, over a hundred ships fired their mounted weapons into the enemy ranks, lighting up the air above the LEP operatives like a lighting storm. Gunships and interceptors fired streams of rapid fire into the daemons, launching missiles beside them, cutting swaths of hostiles apart. The massive transports, like the one before Holly, opened fire with the dozens of point defense guns that bristled from them, as well as rockets and miniature bombs from concealed batteries. As the orchestral piece played on, the virtual tsunami of death washed over the battalions of daemons, utterly destroying most of them instantly, rending them to dust by the thousands. Holly and the other officers pressed themselves against the floor, the shock waves from the explosions washing over them like gale force winds, blowing random debris into the abyss below. As the enemy numbers dwindled exponentially, the smaller gunships began circling the hangar’s interior, dumping thousands of pulse rounds a second onto the completely screwed invaders, who had stopped firing, instead opting to pull back as fast as they could. But no matter of speed could save them, and in only a minute the entire enemy force had been completely annihilated, not a single one remained standing, or whole for that matter.
When the firing as well as the orchestral music stopped abruptly, Holly rose from the ground, taking her helmet off casually as she watched the ships beginning to land. The transport in which the Commander stood flew overhead before landing slowly in front of Holly and the completely flabbergasted officers, who simply stared blankly, trying to comprehend what had just transpired.
Holly approached the looming monstrosity as its massive ramp lowered, revealing none other than Commander Borislav Dragovich Ivankov. He wore full combat attire, minus any headgear, as well as a walloping grin, one that clearly stated “How awesome was that?!”.
The human strode confidently down the ramp towards the Captain. “Captain Holly Short. It’s good to see you.” He said warmly, extending a hand to the elf.
Holly clasped it firmly, smiling in return. “It’s good to see you too Borislav, we would be dead had you not arrived. And great entrance by the way.”
The middle aged man grinned. “Indeed, I figured I might as well make a good first impression on these scaly bastards. Of course I had to use Wagner, my boys love it.”
Upon finishing the sentence, the his face turned instantly from its pleasant demeanor into one of monumental seriousness, as though a switch were pulled that turned off all merriment. He slowly observed the surrounding destruction with hard eyes, noting the numerous fallen fairies strewn amongst the entropy with a slight frown. He turned to one of his officers, who was exiting the craft along with numerous other personnel. “See to it that all of them get the best medical attention, and please, collect their dead.” The officer nodded in acknowledgment, motioning to a team of combat medics and field surgeons, who began administering aid to the injured fairies, who, despite seeing mud men all over the place, accepted it gratefully, knowing that they had very well saved their lives. Around them, the fallen LEP officers were being laid respectfully along side one another, pure white sheets being placed over their lifeless forms, laying them to rest forever.
The Commander and Holly watched the scene before them silently as the wind from the chute blew gently overhead, rustling the detritus on the ground as it was pushed around randomly. Borislav shifted with discomfort, visibly distressed. “I am sorry that we didn’t arrive sooner. If we had, these brave men and women wouldn’t have met the fates they have now.” There was regret in his voice, as though he took responsibility for the deaths of Holly’s comrades.
“But you also saved many as well.” She assured. “You were right on time.”
“I appreciate the consolation Captain, but nothing will change this utter debacle we now face.” Borislav looked to Holly once more, fire in his eyes. “Luckily we’re already informed on your situation and have packed accordingly, as you can see.” He motioned to the transports unloading their contents. From them marched hundreds of armor clad soldiers, armed with impossible amounts of weaponry. Behind them came armored vehicles of all kinds, such as heavily modified Leopard 2 main battle tanks and advanced IFVs. It was an impressive show of military power to say the least. The Commander looked over the scene before them proudly. “When we got word of what had befallen Haven, the council immediately called for our full mobilization and intervention in the conflict. We gathered every unit from all of our branches worldwide. What you see before you is the entirety of our military might.”
Holly observed as even more of the large transports began to land, their contents swiftly unloading. Large artillery cannons and MLRS vehicles rolled onto the hangar floor as dozens of gunships flew overhead, their engines causing the wind to blow even stronger.
Borislav looked at his data pad, reading the reports coming in from the units under his command, nodding slowly before turning to Holly again. “Please, this way, and bring all of the officers that are still able to fight. We must discuss the immanent operation.” The man said politely, motioning to where a mobile command post was being set up. Holly took up position beside Borislav, her remaining officers in tow. The command post, located under a large tent, consisted of all pre-assembled stations, covering everything from communications to electronic warfare. In the center was a large holo-table, similar to the ones within police plaza, displaying a large tactical map of Haven. Around it were several other human soldiers, all of whom were clearly higher ranking officers, judging by the insignias on their armor.
Upon arriving at the tent, the men saluted Borislav, who did so in return. The three men nodded respectfully to Holly, who did the same. There was no current need to be pedantic over proper military formalities, time was of the essence.
“Alright, let’s get started.” The commander stated as they gathered around the table, bringing up the tactical map to focus on their current position.
“Our first objective is to rendez-vous with the main body of the LEP forces, which is currently being pushed back to police plaza. Our primary force will advance through the main streets directly downtown, with secondary groups taking position on the flanks. Along the way we will establish periodic defensive positions to form a line, as well as to keep any straggling groups of hostiles from infiltrating behind our units. Tertiary groups will infiltrate behind enemy lines to secure key buildings and facilities that we have a;ready designated. This will be a textbook Blitzkrieg assault. Our artillery and aircraft will strike first, throwing their land forces into disarray and vastly limiting their aerial capabilities whilst disabling their long range cannons. Our armored division will follow suite, advancing directly into the hostile lines with constant air support. Infantry will follow behind, mopping up whatever resistance remains. We will provide all of the force required for the conflict, though I suggest you make use of your remaining aircraft Captain.”
He motioned to the LEP hanger. Many of the ships were damaged, however there were at least two dozen of them that appeared functional enough for combat operations. Along with the human air support, that would be enough to turn the tide.
“Once we link up with allied forces at police plaza, we will, using our previously established lines, push the enemy back, giving us some room to breath. All the while, our aircraft and artillery will thin out their forces whilst providing suppressing fire, keeping their reserves from adequately assisting their front line. Once a solid offensive line has been established, we will seek to reactivate the LEP’s defense grid. With their DNA cannons as well as our air superiority, we will crush their remaining forces, and push them out of Haven. I’ve run the numbers, it will work. Any objections?”
When none were voiced, he stood tall once more, a fiercely intense demeanor around him. “Then let’s get started.”
The human officers took their leave, heading to their respective positions. Holly instructed her unit to man all of the remaining LEP craft before returning her attention to the commander. “I will lead the LEP aerial wing into Haven alongside yours. I’ll link up with you once we regain control of the skies.”
“Excellent. I will meet you at the police plaza then. Good luck Captain.” Borislav said resolutely, giving the elf a crisp salute.
“The same to you Commander.” Holly saluted before rushing to the hanger, where the other officers were already manning the aircraft. She eyed one of the LEP interceptors, excitement starting to seep into her mind as she ran her hands over the still unscratched surface of the deadly assault ship. She quickly opened the canopy, jumping in agilely whilst simultaneously activating the start up procedures. After a quick security identification, Holly placed the flight helmet upon her head, its heads up display coming to life, optimizing itself to perfectly fit the elf. As she finished the system checks and began to lift off of the hanger floor, her face begot a small grin; this was going to be fun.
She moved the ship to face the large blast door that led into Haven, two dozen LEP fighters behind her. The gunships and interceptors of their human allies were also forming into position, hovering above the gathering forces below. On the ground, a large group of armor and infantry was in place as it prepared to enter the city, the huge tanks taking the front while the lighter units stood ready behind. Overall, there were one thousand infantry, one hundred tanks, two hundred APCs and IFVs, forty artillery vehicles, fifty gunships, fifty interceptors and twenty five LEP ships. It was a force to be reckoned with for sure.
Through the massive portal stood Haven, alight with countless fires that spewed black smoke into the air, filling the vaulting ceiling with blackness. The signs of battle were concentrated downtown, where the police plaza was located, explosions and gunfire echoing from the war zone in an ominous song as streams of pulse fire flew from the LEP ground positions towards the cloud of daemon gunships above, which fired in turn at the fairies beneath. Below, Holly could make out Ivankov standing on top of one of the tanks, holding a wicked looking assault rifle in his hand. He faced the army before him, nodding approvingly at his men. He activated his comm link, broadcasting to not only the humans and fairies before him, but to every LEP channel in the city.
“I will abstain from making a long speech, for time is of the essence, but let me say this. For thousands of years, humanity and the People have been against one another, foes since the great wars of old. Today we fight a war that will make the past blanch in comparison, a war that will decide the fate of this world, for both man and fairy alike. But it will not be against one another, it will not be one of distrust and hatred and needless loss. This will be one of courage and honor, of sacrifice and brotherhood! Let us put our pasts to rest, and let us wake to a new future. Let us fight side by side, and cast the forces of evil from this place once and for all! What say you?”
The men on the ground, and even the fairies in the air, gave a mighty hoorah, invigorated by the speech. Holly grinned excitedly. “Hoorah indeed.”
Haven – Police Plaza
The speech came through to the LEP forces fighting for their very lives against the relentless onslaught. Butler and Trouble stood side by side, blasting daemons left and right as they covered each others’ blind spots.
The bodyguard fired into an advancing daemon, throwing the monster into a wall. “Is that what I think it is?” He bellowed, tossing a grenade into a hostile squad, blasting them in all directions.
“I believe so.” Trouble yelled in return. “It would appear that help has arrived, though in a form that I hardly expected.” Three daemons jumped over their defensive barrier, brandishing large blades. Grub Kelp, who was a few feet from them, turned swiftly, shooting one marauder before it touched the ground.
Butler rammed the butt of is rifle into the gut of another one, sending it tumbling to the ground. The third had an intimate encounter with the man’s fist, which send it back flipping over the barrier, landing on several more approaching enemies.
The human brought his rifle to bear, once more resuming his assault on anything that moved before him. “Then let’s hope they get here fast, we won’t be able to last much longer!” He bellowed.
Trouble nodded as he fired his rifle. Suddenly an alert sounded on his HUD. It was Foaly. The elf activated the link. “What have you got Foaly?”
The centaur’s voice was not the depressed one he’d heard before. This one was clearly ecstatic. “The jamming signals that were blocking our link to Holly have been eliminated, most likely by the humans that have just arrived.”
Trouble’s heart leaped. “Is she alive? Tell me Foaly!”
The centaur’s voice came through again, as joyful as before. “By the gods she is! And she’s got a virtual army with her. She’s currently launching the remaining LEP attack craft, which she is leading personally.”
Trouble grinned. So she’d defied death again. The Commander was greatly relieved by the news, a massive weight rising off his chest. Butler noticed the elf’s sudden change in demeanor, raising an eyebrow curiously. “Good news I take it?” He asked as he kicked a daemon in the face.
“The best.” Trouble replied confidently, a fierce look kindling in his eyes.
Overhead, the large fleet of daemon gunships that were barraging them suddenly stopped, their guns halting their deadly work. Almost dismissively, the craft turned away from the police plaza, bringing themselves around to face the terminal. On the ground, a large detachment from both the daemon infantry and armor changed course as well, making their way rapidly towards the new threat. As dozens of daemon gunships screamed through the sky, their killing intent now fixed on the intervening forces, Butler and Trouble watched quietly.
“Let’s hope they’re up to the task.” Butler rumbled.
“Don’t worry about that.” Commander Kelp stated resolutely. “They’ve got this.” Go get ’em Holly.
An explosion rocked the square once more, the remaining hostiles resuming their assault on the LEP defenders. The human and elf turned their attention back to the task at hand, meeting the deadly horde with newly restored vigor and determination.
Opal growled in frustration as she watched the live feed from her throne, her eyes glowing bright crimson as pure animosity covered her face. Only moments ago she had been certain that Holly would perish, she was so eager to see her torn limb from limb that it hurt, but now such things had come to an abrupt halt thanks to the intervention of a force of unknown humans. Humans! She thought incredulously. Since when were they so willing to help the People?! Since when did so many know of their existence! It was impossible to think that a group of those inferior apes had somehow learned of the People’s presence and not used such knowledge for their own selfish gain, that they had acquired technology comparable to the LEP’s best, and most especially that they somehow did this under her nose. Nothing escaped her, not even the most minute detail, and yet an entire organization had done so?!
The enraged pixie huffed loudly, her face twitching with murderous desires. “How is this even possible!” She snarled, tapping her fingers impatiently on her armrest.
Artemis, who was filled with an incredible amount of relief, grinned slightly. So there’s the missing variable. Now it’s all coming together quite nicely.
He looked at Opal, noting her distress. “It appears that you missed a spot during your planning, oh all powerful Koboi.” He said, seeking to further harass the pixie. To his delight, she reacted.
“Shut up!” She squealed. “You’re only alive because I want you to be. Don’t make me change my mind.” Opal’s threat was, however, full of holes. Artemis knew that she couldn’t kill him, such was not part of her ultimate plan, and he could read her emotions like an open book. It was elementary really.
The boy let out another internal sigh of relief. He’d been almost certain that Holly was finished, that there was no way out for his friend. Yet again, by luck and fate, she’d been saved. Had Ivankov been a minute off, it would be an entirely different situation. Still, Artemis reprimanded himself for not seeing this coming. Sure, he’d expected some sort of response, but this fast? Clearly he had underestimated their efficiency.
Artemis looked to the feeds again, noting the scale and content of the human forces, comparing it with the hostile army that it was about to face. All things considered, victory was a distinct possibility, and with Holly in the skies, it was a certainty. However, such calculations depended on Opal not having any more reinforcements to throw into the fight, which was another unknown variable at the time.
That said, if Haven’s defenses were online, such wouldn’t matter, as Foaly had the most sophisticated and powerful defense grid in the world. Judging by what I’ve been told, Opal has made sure that Foaly’s network is shut down and inaccessible, therefore the ops booth must be ruined. However, given Foaly’s propensity to be inconceivably paranoid, I highly doubt he’d be without a backup. Maybe he has one in his basement…But that’s just ridiculous.
Artemis’ thought process was interrupted by a fist hitting him in the face. The force of the blow threw the boy to the ground with lighting speed, knocking him unconscious for a brief second. He lay there on the cold floor for a brief second, spots in his vision, and a migraine forming in his head.
After a good deal of writhing, Artemis sat up, looking at the source of the sudden assault. Opal stood there, her fists clenched, her blood red eyes glowing angrily.
“That felt satisfying.” She said with a malevolent grin. “Frankly, I should do that whenever I am perturbed, it’s quite cathartic really. Besides, I’ve been meaning to do that for quite a while, and there’s no better time to do it than when you’re in one of your little thought spells, oh how I enjoy wiping that contemplative look off of your insolent face.”
Artemis rubbed his jaw absentmindedly as she walked back to her seat. “I know I can’t kill you, you called my bluff on that one. However, that doesn’t mean that I can’t seriously injure you. In fact, I think that will prove to be a great source of entertainment once this is over. Just think; I can beat until you’re within a hair’s breadth of death, and then I can heal you. Then I can do so again, and again, and again!” She laughed vilely. “You’re anything but untouchable kid, remember that!”
Her deadly eyes turned towards the screens, observing the new foe that had emerged unexpectedly. “Now that that’s taken care of, what to do with these fools. They’ll all die of course, but in what manner? How tough a decision. But then again, variety’s the spice of life is it not?” The pixie smiled devilishly. “They may have caught me off guard, I’ll give them that, but their intervention will by no means change a thing. Their fate is now intertwined with that of the LEP, so the only difference they’re making is that instead of dying separately, they’ll all die together.”
The screens now showed a good two thirds of the daemon army breaking off, making their way towards the terminal. It was a massive force, easily outnumbering the combined human-fairy group. But numbers do not win a battle, and as far as Artemis could tell, the odds were greatly favoring their allies. Besides, with Holly leading an aerial assault, there’s not much that could stop them. The boy watched intently, silently wishing his friends luck in the battle to come.
Opal watched the feeds carefully, as if searching for something. After a minute she zeroed in on a particular LEP fighter, Short’s. The pixie focused on Holly, who was now hovering in an LEP assault ship, gritting her teeth in hatred as she opened a channel to her army. “All ships, your primary target is LEP captain Holly Short. Destroy her!” The pixie sat back, anticipation growing on her face. “Alright, Short, let’s see what you’re made of!”
Haven – Eastern Limits, Near Haven Terminal
Holly sat in the cockpit of the LEP assault ship, her eyes completely focused on the city before her. What she was looking at in particular was the massive number of enemy units coming her way. Thousands of daemon infantry and hundreds of tanks swept over the ruined landscape, a wave of steel and fire that crushed everything in its path. Above them flew a plethora of gunships, their speed rising as they closed in on the allied forces. Around the Captain were dozens of fighters, both human and fairy, all organized into squadrons, their weapons hot and ready. Below was the entire human army, its numbers stretched out in a thick line of armored vehicles and infantry. Behind these units were a number of high powered artillery guns and numerous multiple launch rocket systems, their barrels already zeroed in on the advancing enemies, who were about five kilometers away
Commander Ivankov observed the incoming horde with a calculating look, the army around him awaiting the order. After a brief second of thought, the man spoke into his comm link. “Artillery, commence bombardment.”
Almost instantly, the guns responded, firing together with a monstrous boom. The cannons recoiled, dust rising from the ground on which they were planted, sending their high yield shells screaming towards the daemon legions. The MLRS vehicles unloaded their deadly payload as well, missiles streaming from their launch tubes and into the sky, arcing gracefully through the smoke filled air. The ordinance was composed of upgraded conventional shells and bio-bomb like missiles, giving the best of both worlds to the invading monsters. To its credit, the daemon army didn’t even slow, but rather kept coming as the artillery rounds closed in on them with dreadful speed.
The voice of the artillery observer came through on the channel. “All units be advised, touchdown in three, two, one…”
A series of massive explosions shook the ground as hundreds of missiles and shells landed amongst the hostile force, erupting in gigantic balls of fire and blue energy discharges, the HE shells rending armor and tanks to ribbons whilst the bio-missiles atomized daemon infantry by the hundreds. Fierce, hot wind blew through the air as the bombardment continued, shock waves shaking the earth. Holly watched the shelling with awe, the sheer scale of the destruction mind blowing. It as though a wall of blue fire had consumed a fifth of the city, utterly engulfing a good portion of the charging horde. But such wasn’t going to be sufficient enough to stop them. Even as the ground was torn asunder, most of the daemon gunships were unscathed, only a few of them being struck by incoming shells. With the earth burning below them, thus slowing the advance of the ground forces, the aircraft pushed forward, seeking to engage the army on their own.
Borislav, who was observing the carnage from the forward command post that had been set up behind the infantry, took the cue. Again, he casually brought up his communicator, speaking calmly into it. “Squadrons Alpha through Iota, engage all hostile gunships. Squadrons Kappa through Omega, advance to forward positions, assume a defensive grid behind offensive squadrons, engage any hostiles that break through.” He then opened up a link to Holly. “Captain, I’ll let you lead the charge if you so desire, you are free to engage, though do save some for the rest of us.”
Holly grinned. “Roger that, though the second part may be too much to ask for.”
The Commander chuckled. “Alright, good luck. Ivankov out.”
Holly looked forward once more to the war that beckoned her to join in against the evil that filled the skies. Behind her the LEP fighters awaited her orders, along with the human ships. With a determined voice the elf sounded the charge. “This is Captain Short, call sign Havoc. All ships, form up on me.”
She opened up the throttle, blasting the ship’s engines to full power, the blue energy glowing out from the rear of the ship. With a powerful jolt the assault ship gunned forward, the G-force pressing Holly to the seat, she senses soaking up the thrill gleefully. She lived to fly these craft, to defy as many obstacles as possible, to be free in the skies. Such was she now, though she knew that duty awaited, and that no matter how exhilarating it was to push the fighter, there were lives to be saved.
The enemy gunships were spread out before her, deadly blotches in the sky at a distance, but ever growing in size as they neared. Behind her, over once hundred aircraft took up position, forming into attack formations. Holly brought up her targeting reticle, which instantly highlighted the hundreds of gunships ahead, calculating their distance, speed and trajectories. She designated targets swiftly, locking onto several dozen of the foremost ships. The rest of the ships around her were doing the same, their weapons systems ready to unleash death at a moments notice.
Holly spoke into her comm link resolutely. “All ships, fire on my mark.”
The distance between the two fleets was diminishing quickly, now only three kilometers apart. The Captain took a deep breath, flexing her fingers on the control wheel, her thumb hovering over the fire command. This was way past anything she’d ever done, but that made it all the more exciting. Bring it on!
With an unshakable confidence she yelled the command. “All units, engage at will!”
A fraction of a second later, all hell broke loose.
The skies lit up as the entire fleet alongside her opened fire, releasing hundreds of missiles and a wave of laser rounds, sending a literal wall of deadly munitions into the advancing daemon fleet. Holly pressed her fire commands, blasting two dozen rockets at the targeted ships. Along with hundreds of others, the weapons hit their marks, igniting the air with the resulting explosions, sending a good third of the hostile ships to the earth below in balls of fire.
The remaining daemon ships returned fire, unloading a sea of missiles and cannon rounds. “All ships break formation, initiate countermeasures and begin evasive maneuvers!”
The allied fleet broke formation, the ships launching decoys and using small point defense cannons to target the incoming missiles. Many of the approaching missiles exploded as the countermeasures met them, however some broke through, locking onto the nearest ships. The pilots of the craft threw their ships into overdrive, seeking to outrun the pursuing devices. Several ships, including two of Holly’s officers, were hit, the missiles exploding upon proximity to the fighters, sending them spiraling out of control. Holly grimaced, increasing her efforts to destroy the hostiles as the two fleets collided violently. But before she could target any other ships, the elf was alerted to three missiles behind her, their sleek forms speeding towards her ship. “Not gonna happen.” She said angrily.
The elf activated the overdrive, pushing her ship even faster into the enemy lines, the missiles in hot pursuit. As she neared a squadron of enemy ships, she activated her countermeasures, sending several decoys off to the sides. The decoys flew right into the enemy formation, which began to break into evasive maneuvers, knowing what Holly was trying to pull. Of course, they were too late. Before any of the five craft could get clear, the missiles rammed the decoys, exploding violently, sending a massive blast into the ships, the shrapnel tearing them to pieces. Holly grinned as the ships went up in flames, falling onto the advancing enemy below.
Around her, many of the ships had expended their long range missiles and were now locked in an intense dogfight all over Haven, the skies a beehive of fighters engaging each other. On the ground below, Holly could make out the police plaza, as well as the enormous amount of combat taking place around it. Fires sprung up around the plaza, the flashes of gunfire blinking rapidly all over the area as hundreds of weapons were discharged at once. As if on cue, a garbled transmission came through on her helmet. It was Foaly.
“By the gods Holly am I glad to see you!” He said happily.
“It’s good to be back.” She said, speaking to the centaur casually as she tore through enemy aircraft with her high powered cannons. That makes thirty kills. “How are things holding up down there?”
“Your arrival took a lot of pressure off of us, but we’re still severely outgunned. They’re artillery is tearing us apart.” Foaly answered, loud rumbles audible through his transmission as the HE rounds pummeled the building.
Holly threw her ship into a loop, coming up on the flank of a gunship that was tailing her. “I’ll take care of those guns Foaly, just hold on.” She said as she lit up the enemy craft, sending it blazing into an enemy tank column. The resulting fireball rose high into the sky, Holly flying through it without hesitation, emerging on the other side without a scratch.
She scanned the surrounding area, following the trails that the enemy artillery shells made in the air. It didn’t take her long to find their source, which was several dozen large guns set up on the North side of Haven, their muzzle blasts more than visible as they blasted the LEP HQ. Holly threw the right engine into reverse, spinning the ship abruptly in the direction of the enemy cannons. She brought up her comm link to two of her fellow officers who were in her area. “Rex, Cypher, form on me, our target is the hostile artillery positions.”
She waited for a second, then heard one of the officers respond. “Roger Havoc, we’ve got your six.”
Two LEP fighters took up formation behind her, matching her speed exactly as they approached the enemy placements. “Rex, take left. Cypher take right. I’ll take center.”
“Roger that Havoc.”
The the craft split up, each targeting separate sections of the artillery positions, which were still firing towards the plaza, oblivious to the inbound fighters.
Holly highlighted the dozen guns as she sped towards them, readying her remaining missiles to fire. At one click out she opened up, twelve missiles shooting forward with blinding speed. The two ships with her did the same, letting loose all of their projectiles into the cannons. Together, they hit the artillery in unison, completely obliterating the massive guns. As the three fighters flew over the destruction, the ammunition stockpiled beside the cannons ignited, creating a colossal wall of flame, almost consuming the trio of LEP assault craft with their hungry crimson clouds.
Opal screamed in rage as she watched Holly obliterate her forces, banging her fists on the stone armrests, cracking them with the force of the impact. Her eyes glowed impossibly bright, her crimson pupils full of vituperation.
Artemis, on the other hand, was thrilled beyond any level of measurement, a large grin on his bruised face as he observed the elf’s handiwork. Surely the tide was turning, this time for good.
Koboi seethed as she glared daggers at the elf’s fighter craft, her features twitching violently. Finally, seemingly utterly sick of the LEP captain’s actions, the nefarious pixie stood up abruptly, pointing at the screen in spite of herself, yelling into her communicator with complete exasperation. “All available gunships target that LEP fighter! Bring Short down! Kill her! Kill her!”
Captain Holly short fired a flurry of laser rounds into a passing gunship, tearing it asunder as she steered her ship higher into the air.
As Holly rocketed into the sky, she called Foaly up again on her comm link. “Their artillery has been neutralized.”
Foaly responded quickly, his voice hurried. “That’s great Holly, though I think you should pay attention to those bandits on your tail!”
Holly quickly checked her sensors. Sure enough, there were thirty gunships right behind her, and they looked rather ticked off. Looks like she just stirred up a bee’s nest.
“Break formation!” She yelled to her two comrades. Before they could, however, the enemy ships fired into their formation, striking the two fighters with well over twelve rockets each. Holly fumed as the ships burst into flames, their once streamlined forms now twisted and gnarled as they plummeted to the fiery streets below.
“Now you’ve done it!” She growled angrily.
With the small fleet of ships trailing her Holly punched her craft into overdrive, pushing the fighter to breakneck speeds as the pursuing hostiles tried to keep up. Good thing for Holly, the daemons had used their remaining rockets on her comrades, now they only had cannons to try and take the elf down. They might as well have had slingshots.
As the elf pushed her ship forward, weaving around the sky as she dodged the plethora of cannon fire from the trailing fleet, another group of thirty gunships rose from the smoke directly in front of her, firing dozens of missiles right at her. Holly pressed her fire control, blasting several of the incoming weapons from the sky, though the others remained intact. She checked behind her, happy to find the group of daemon ships still there, a mass of aircraft that would undoubtedly attract any heat seeking missile. Clenching her teeth, the elf threw her engines into reverse, dropping the speed of her ship to almost zero in a split second, the force of the sudden change of velocity pressing against Holly as she gritted her teeth, fighting the G-force with sheer willpower.
Before they knew it, the daemon ships that were behind her suddenly found themselves way past the LEP Captain, and right in the path of the missiles. The craft broke formation, scrambling to evade the missiles as they locked onto their heat signatures, following them relentlessly. In a shower of fire and melted metal, two dozen of the gunships exploded, their wrecked forms flying into several other enemy fighters as they weaved through the destruction, sending them whirling out of control. As the daemon ships emerged from the cloud of fire, they were met by the other group of craft that had fired the missiles, and subsequently rammed right into them. It was a brilliant show of fireworks to say the least.
Holly grinned with satisfaction, throwing her ship forward once more towards the now disoriented hostile gunships. With a roar she opened up, her four heavy guns blasting into the jumble of unorganized craft, cutting through several of them instantly. She rocketed past their formation, making a steep climb as she came around for another pass. As she regained visual sight of the daemon ships, she fired again, picking four more of them apart as they sought to regain control over the situation. When Holly passed them for the second time, the remaining ships managed to reorganize themselves, diverting power to their engines as they whooshed after the elf’s fighter. Several other gunships joined them as they came at Holly with murderous speed, making the remaining pursuers number thirty-seven. Again, Holly was engaged in a game of evasion, dodging streams of hot lead and 30mm cannon rounds as they chased after her. She was getting tired of these daemons.
Without a moments notice the Captain threw her ship into a steep turn, blasting towards the now ruined downtown district. The area was swarming with daemons, not a single fairy, which made Holly comfortable with what she was about to do. The gunships fired at her relentlessly, the bright tracer rounds flying by her ship, mere inches away from hitting her. She went into a steep dive, leveling out only a few dozen meters from the earth, weaving her way in between the many burnt out buildings as she tried to shake her pursuers. Despite this, they kept on her tail, their piloting skills better than she had anticipated. Out of nowhere, a cannon round clipped her wing, sending a tremor through the ship but otherwise having little effect. Holly gritted her teeth, she needed to lose these gunships and fast. As she looked ahead at the taller structures in the city, Holly got an idea. One of the largest buildings in Haven, a fifty story banking tower, loomed before her, its burnt out skeleton visibly brittle and weak. The elf grinned despite herself; she’d never liked that bank.
With the thirty-seven gunships hot on her tail, the Captain targeted the base of the approaching tower. With a burst of laser fire the bottom of the structure shattered into shards of stone and clouds of dust, causing the whole building to shake precariously, slowly tilting to one side. Holly dodged several cannon bursts, focusing on the now falling tower that she was closing in on. The daemon ships were still on her, blindly following the elf with killing intent, their sole purpose to destroy her. The structure was now halfway to the ground, its massive bulk crumbling, a shower of debris falling from it as it collapsed to the dead streets. She had only seconds to make it through. Holly narrowed her eyes, pushing her ship even faster. For a second it looked as though she wouldn’t make it, but for Holly there was plenty of space. With a sonic boom the elf blasted under the falling tower, missing being crushed by a fraction of a second, the edges of her ship nearly touching the building above and the ground below. With an enormous thud the structure met the earth, exploding in a shower of dust and shrapnel. The daemon gunships, who were only a few seconds behind Holly’s tail, had little time to react. Eight managed to evade the solid monstrosity, the other twenty-nine were not so lucky. With a loud crash stone and metal met, the ships crumpling like tin cans upon impact, smashing through the side of the building before detonating destructively.
Holly sped her ship away from the site, trying to distance herself from the remaining gunships. When they, yet again, pursued the elf, she opted to try something new. Holly pulled up into a steep rise, one that the daemons couldn’t accomplish with their ships. As they fell behind, the elf watched as the ceiling got closer and closer, its looming expanse growing larger and larger. When it seemed as though she would collide with the solid roof, she cut the engines. The LEP assault ship glided up for a brief moment before coming to a midair standstill. As it began to fall, Holly manipulated the craft so that it faced the dive. As she began to fall, she saw the eight gunships below, rising to meet her. Holly let the ship free fall for a few seconds until the daemons fired their cannons. In a split second the elf brought the engines online and put it to full power, shooting the ship forward, dodging the high powered rounds. Then she returned fire. As she spiraled out of the sky at blinding speed, Holly unloaded into the eight gunships, who couldn’t track her sufficiently enough to fire back. One by one she dove past each gunship, leaving several dozen laser blasts in each of them. As she passed the last one, she pulled out of her dive, leveling out as the eight ships exploded behind her, creating a string of fire across the sky.
Around the city, allied aircraft were mopping up what was left of the enemy fleet, starting to change their focus to the remaining daemon ground forces, which were in utter disarray. On the far side of the city, the human armored division had started its advance, cutting through the broken enemy lines like a hot knife through butter, the infantry following suite, clearing out any pockets of resistance that remained. The distant sounds of dozens of 120mm tank guns and 30mm chain guns echoed through the air, the resulting explosions pummeling the daemons. Overall, the only significant concentration of hostile forces was around the police plaza, where there was still intense fighting taking place. Holly didn’t wait for a second, knowing that her friends were still in severe combat, death still a high possibility for them. The elf pushed the craft to full power, flying towards the plaza as fast as she could, the assault ship’s engines blaring above the combat below.
Haven – Police Plaza
The stone surface of the plaza crumbled as laser blasts bombarded the ground, tearing up massive chunks of debris and casting it high into the air. Cracks formed in the already heavily damaged terrain as gigantic treads rumbled monstrously, the looming daemon tanks advancing into the square with ease. The LEP forces were being pushed back swiftly, their defensive barriers and any unfortunate officer being run over by the enemy armor, their heavy plates deflecting the small arms fire that was being thrown at them. Daemon infantry poured into the square behind the vehicles, unleashed a withering wall of lead towards the dug in fairies.
Butler, Trouble and Grub were behind the charred remains of a crashed daemon gunship, using its heavy armor as shelter from the devastating barrage. They had long since expended their neutrino rocket launchers, now having only small arms and grenades, which did little to stop the marauding tanks that were flattening the plaza. A laser blast from one of the vehicles flew right by their position, exploding into the side of the police plaza, blowing a sizable chunk off of the building.
Grub winced as another laser round struck an LEP position just to their right, killing the occupants instantly. “We won’t be able to do much of anything with those tanks out there Trouble!”
Trouble threw a grenade over the shuttle, landing it amongst the advancing daemons. “That’s quite apparent Grub. We just have to hold out a little but longer.”
Butler shielded his face as the blast from a nearby explosion send chunks of pavement through the air. He fired his pulse rifle into a group of enemy infantry that had breached the barriers, mowing them down. “We might not have a little longer, we’re at a sever disadvantage against those tanks. I’d advise an organized retreat, but there’s nowhere to retreat to.”
Trouble checked his communicator, reading the grid locations of a certain LEP captain. “I wouldn’t worry about that.” He grinned.
“And why’s that.” Grub asked as he blind fired into the enemy lines.
Before Trouble could answer, the blaring noise of the supercharged reactor powered engines of an LEP assault ship pierced the air above, eliciting the attention of the hostile forces as well. Along with the ever rising sound came the steady response of heavy laser cannons, the distant blasts closing in rapidly. As the daemon tanks turned their barrels to face the approaching ship, a relentless stream of laser rounds poured from the sky, tearing into the vehicles with deadly efficiency, blasting them to pieces. Daemon infantry were atomized as the tanks’ reactors overloaded, the subsequent explosions consuming the entire enemy advance.
The scream of the engines reached a climax as an LEP assault ship strafed over the square, still firing its cannons ferociously, further decimating the daemon forces. After passing the square at extremely high speeds, the pilot of the craft pulled up steeply, spinning gracefully as the fighter rose into the sky.
Trouble looked at Grub again, a grin on his face. “That’s why.”
With the majority of the hostile armor now in shambles, the LEP forces renewed their efforts to throw the now decimated daemon division from the square. Butler, Trouble and Grub, along with dozens of other officers, removed themselves from their cover, bringing their weapons to bear on the recovering daemon infantry. Hundreds of rounds were sent into the enemy units, blasting many them off of their feet as others fired stubbornly back at the fairies. Overhead, more allied aircraft began to appear, now in complete control of the skies. With the remaining LEP ground forces on the offensive, the allied gunships began their attack runs, strafing the enemy units with their mounted guns, mowing them down mercilessly with their rapid fire cannons.
Trouble blasted several daemons to the right, sending them crumpling to the ground. Beside him, Grub Kelp was doing the same, firing professionally at any enemy that presented itself. Butler, on the other hand, had opted for an even more aggressive approach. Taking point in the LEP charge, the man mountain fired from his rifle in one hand expertly into dozens of daemon soldiers, using his other hand to fire his Sig Sauer, unleashing unforgiving lead into the attackers. Upon reaching a barrier, the man vaulted over it, landing amidst seven very unlucky hostiles. Before they could bring their weapons against him the bodyguard used his rifle as a club, smashing five of them to the ground with a powerful swing. Whilst he swung the rifle, Butler pistol whipped another one, crushing its skull as it tried to dodge the attack. The last one made a move to stab the human with its bayonet, but met Butler’s foot instead, which send it cartwheeling through a nearby wall.
Around him, the daemon forces were being pushed back, their numbers falling exponentially as the officers on the ground and the ships in the air gunned them down. In the distance, a number of large explosions blew into the rear lines of the enemy force, followed by the sound of dozens of armored vehicles. With a crash, a large group of allied tanks burst into the square, obliterating the barriers that sought to impede their advance. The heavily modified Leopard 2 main battle tanks fired their main guns into the hostile positions, disintegrating everything in their path. Along with the tanks came numerous infantry fighting vehicles, their 30mm pulse guns cutting into the enemy lines with deadly accuracy. The combined power of the allied armor and the LEP forces completely overwhelmed the remaining daemon units, defeating them in a matter of minutes.
As the last of the daemon division fell to the allied assault, Commander Kelp, along with most of the remaining LEP forces, approached the armored platoon that had emerged into the square, the massive vehicles looming over them. Kelp stopped at about fifteen paces from the foremost of the tanks, waiting expectantly as further human forces entered the square, the infantry catching up to the mechanized units. For a moment, there was complete silence between the two groups, not a single move by either to bridge the gap between them. The top hatch of the lead battle tank flipped open slickly, a man in full combat dress emerging smoothly, the full face gear that most of the human infantry wore covering his features entirely. One his shoulders were the rank insignias of a commander.
The human jumped from the turret, landing solidly on the crumbled stone below, the impact of combat boots making a small cloud of dust at his feet which hung lazily in the air. He calmly reached up to his face, removing the helmet, revealing the fierce middle aged face of Commander Ivankov. With a commanding gait that man walked towards Trouble, purpose emanating from him. The LEP commander did the same, approaching the man confidently. The two armies watched quietly as the human and fairy leaders met in the middle, the distant sound of allied units clearing out pockets of resistance echoing faintly through the air.
When they were within arms reach of each other, Ivankov reached out a hand to Kelp, who grabbed it without a moment’s hesitation.
“Well met, Commander.” Borislav stated formally, shaking the elf’s smaller hand firmly.
“Very well met indeed, Commander.” Trouble replied.
There was an invisible sign of relief from everyone watching, the previous tension in the air now gone, blown away by a gentle breeze.
Ivankov released the elf’s hand, nodding slightly at the Commander. “It’s good to finally see you in the flesh. When we communicated last time I was going to suggest some appropriate negotiation actions between us. However, I believe that this will suffice.” The man had the faintest hint of a grin on his face.
Trouble nodded in concurrence. “It most definitely will. I am, admittedly, hesitant to accept help from humans, but you very well saved this city, and you have my gratitude.”
Despite all of the elf’s negative views on humanity, he wouldn’t allow it to influence his interactions with the ones that were before him now. Even though they were mud men, they had literally saved their skin, arriving just in the nick of time to turn the tide of war. Without them, he’d very well be dead by now, along with Holly, Foaly, Butler and the rest of his officers. It was a surreal thing for Trouble. He’d never in a million years believe what was transpiring as possible, and yet here it was. Maybe humans could change after all.
Around the two commanders, the fairy and human forces had resumed their duties professionally, the two races mingling as human medics assisted the wounded, and soldiers, though awkwardly at first, conducting almost casual conversation with one another. Overhead, an LEP assault ship screamed through the sky, its speed dropping as it brought itself to a hover over the square. The ship lowered slowly onto an area of semi-intact stone, its landing gear lowering to meet the torn up surface below. With a barely audible thump that craft landed in the square, a few meters from the two leaders.
Trouble grinned at the ship. “I believe you’ve already met Captain Short.” He stated.
“Of course.” The man said as the canopy raised. “How can anyone forget her.”
Holly jumped from the ship’s cockpit, landing nimbly on the hazardous surface of the plaza. Removing her helmet, the elf walked gingerly up to the two commanders.
“Ah, Captain. It’s good to see you.” Borislav greeted, assessing the partially damaged fighter craft before him. “You really gave those buggers hell. I haven’t seen such talented piloting skills in my entire life. Quite reckless, but highly effective. What’s your final tally?”
The female officer grinned, still exhilarated by the dogfight. “One hundred and twenty-nine bandits.” She stated with a great degree of bravado. Holly usually didn’t like to brag, but she’d just taken down enough aircraft to qualify for fighter ace fifty times over.
As Ivankov gave a slow clap for Holly’s kill count, Trouble stepped up to the captain. “It’s good to have you back Short, we were worried that we lost you back there.”
Holly nodded solemnly, remembering the brutal combat within the hangar. “You almost did, we were completely surrounded. Had our allies not intervened, we’d all be at the wrong end of a gun right now.”
Commander Kelp looked at the ground, a slight frown on his face. “I hate to admit, but we owe them one.”
Such words were clearly difficult for the elf to say. He’d always had a biased view on humanity, even towards Artemis despite him saving their people numerous times before. Maybe after this he’d leave some room for acceptance.
Commander Ivankov looked at his communicator, an impassive look on his face. “We should head to your command room, I must confer with your specialist, Foaly, as well as further discuss this conflict. We may have won this battle, but something tells me that things are far from over.”
Everyone agreed, Trouble taking up lead as they passed through the square. Butler, who was cleaning his excessively used Sig Sauer once again, walked up beside them, nodding respectfully to Borislav, who simply nodded back. Words need not be shared between professional men such as themselves, mere gestures spoke volumes.
Activity raced around them as they walked through the smokey halls of the HQ, some sections completely blocked off by debris from the bombardment. Many of the open rooms had been converted into makeshift field hospitals, filled with many wounded who were being tended by highly skilled doctors and surgeons. It was a morbid scene, but it also conveyed hope. It was much preferable that there be many wounded as opposed to many dead. Once the medical warlocks refill their magic, there was little that they couldn’t treat. For now, however, the task fell to the human medical professionals, who were highly effective despite their lack of magic.
The foursome made their way past the busy areas of the building, reaching the command room without incident. As Holly entered the room, she was tackled by a certain overjoyed centaur.
“Thank the gods Holly you’re alright, I was so worried about you!” Foaly said happily.
Holly didn’t like hugs very much, but she let it slide again. “I won’t be alright if you keep doing this. It hasn’t been twenty four hours and this is the second time you’ve nearly smothered me.” She said jokingly, happy to see her friend alive and well.
The others were standing around the room, an awkward silence forming as they watched the two embrace. Borislav cleared his throat abruptly. “Alright, now that we’ve taken care of the obligatory sentimental actions, let us gather around the table, shall we?”
Everyone with the exception of Trouble, who was slightly vexed by the human commanding them around in their own base of operations, complied without complaint. The holo-table, which was situated in the center of the room, was alight with the top-down battle map displaying the battleground that was once Haven. Much unlike earlier, the red symbols for the routed daemon forces were vastly outnumbered by the blue allied units, which were actively clearing the city. Foaly had already highlighted the human forces as friendlies, and had made a broadcast further cementing that fact. He clearly wanted to avoid any misunderstandings with Atlantis’ reinforcements on their way.
Borislav put his hands on the table, looking to each of the room’s occupants before beginning. “So far, our forces have reduced the hostile divisions by ninety eight percent, the other two will soon follow. We have established a defensive line across the city and are preparing for any further offensive actions that the enemy may take. We may have beaten their current army, but our sensors cannot penetrate the interference emanating from the North entrance, thus it is safe to assume that they may have more units waiting to be deployed.”
Butler, who was polishing his gun absentmindedly, spoke up with a rumble. “What of the source of this attack? Do we know anything about them that could lead us to Artemis?”
The human commander shook his head slowly. “Apart from the fact that they are a genetically mutated species clearly manufactured for war, that they are well supplied, and that they operate with the sole purpose to destroy us, not that much. We have been able to link a number of above ground weapons smugglers to the weapons being used here, such as the one that Captain Short encountered in Ireland, but there is no trail to follow. Whoever is behind this is most definitely highly intelligent, highly experienced, and highly malevolent.”
Holly frowned. “I can think of a few that match the profile. Problem is that they’re all supposedly dead.”
Trouble looked at the map carefully. “Whatever it is, it seems to have a great deal of interest in Fowl. Though that mud boy has obviously made countless enemies in his life, only a few are capable of this, and only one has had multiple dealings with him.”
“Opal.” Butler growled, anger evident in his voice.
Holly grimaced, the conflicts against the pixie still fresh in her memory. “But she’s dead. Both her past and present self died almost two years ago.”
“But then again, I doubt she would let death stop her. She may have found a way back, which is highly unlikely, but when you take obscure magical lore into consideration, it is plausible.” Foaly stated, the centaur growing nervous at the mention of his arch rival.
Borislav nodded thoughtfully. “That very well may be the case, but we can’t prove it yet. Regardless, we need to find the puppeteer behind these monsters, and fast.”
An alert sounded on Foaly’s wrist console. The centaur looked at it briefly. “The Atlantean forces have arrived, they’re currently entering the city via the terminal. Don’t worry about them going trigger happy on your men, commander, I’ve informed them about the situation.”
“And how did they take the news?” The human asked.
“They accepted it, but they weren’t very happy about it.” Foaly replied.
As if to further accentuate the point, the doors to the command room burst open, an extremely infuriated looking elven general storming into the room. The elf was larger than most, four inches taller than the ones around him. He had graying hair and an aged face that looked fierce and authoritative, giving him the persona of an unforgiving drill sergeant. He wore combat attire, the gleaming acorns from his rank insignia visibly apparent on his chest. To complete the appearance, a large cigar stuck out of the corner of the general’s mouth, thick smoke fuming from it. All in all, he was quite intimidating.
“Commander Kelp! You better have a good reason for this!” He yelled, glaring at Ivankov as he approached the group. “First Haven is laid to waste by an army of mutated freaks, and now the place is crawling with mud men! I don’t know which is worse!”
Trouble addressed the general formally and calmly. “There is a perfectly sound explanation for all of this General Winters. I will personally detail the events of the past few days as well as prepare the necessary reports.” He paused for a moment, a sad look crossing his face. “Furthermore, I take full responsibility as commander for what has befallen Haven. However, I believe that we should put all of this behind us for now, we need to focus on the situation at hand.” He looked at the human commander, who was completely placid. “As for the humans, I would like to say that I too am not completely thrilled with their presence here. But feelings aside, they saved us from complete annihilation, and have played a pivotal role in defeating the assaulting forces.”
General Winters fumed for a bit longer before simmering down a notch, from completely ticked off to slightly less ticked off. “Very well Commander, but I will have answers when this is over, even if that means you being court-martialed!”
The palpable tension in the room was shattered by a blaring siren, the emergency lights flashing anew as Foaly investigated the source. “Oh gods.” He said flatly, his face contorted with shock.
Unknown Location – Ten Minutes Earlier
The large room was awash with crimson light, the ground shaking as the screens above depicted the now ruined daemon forces. A vituperative scream filled the air, echoing throughout the large expanse of the chamber as anger and hatred flowed freely.
Opal seethed spitefully as she watched her armies being destroyed, as Holly decimated her gunships with ease, taunting the pixie with her reckless skill and seeming invulnerability. The glowing veins on her visage pulsed sickly, burning red light pouring from her eyes as she shook with rage. Her hands gripped the edge of the black throne, crushing the stone with ease as she growled demonically.
“I have not come this far to have my plans toppled by those insolent fairies and a bunch of disgusting apes!” She snarled.
Artemis watched the pixie’s transformation with reluctant awe, her anger eliciting fear from the boy, who noted particularly how her small hands made solid stone crumble like dust. Now is not be the best time for witty remarks, that would most definitely result in a painful experience. Nonetheless, it is clear that Opal has not lost her villainous flaws. She’s already lost control of her emotions on numerous accounts, and has shown to be platitudinous in her course of action. This is both a good and a bad thing. Good as she is thus predictable, bad due to the fact that such predictable behavior is extremely dangerous.
The genius kept thinking, his legs crossed as he sought to clear his mind to assume a meditative state. Even though they had beaten Opal’s army, the war was far from over. If they were to ultimately succeed, then he needed to have a plan.
Whilst Artemis contemplated brilliantly, the nefarious pixie glowered at the monitors. “You think you’ve won? You honestly believe that this fight is over?! Pathetic weaklings! It will never be finished, it will keep coming at you until you are nothing but ash!”
Opal punched in a code on her communicator, screaming vehemently into the device. “All remaining units advance! All legions, all auxiliary reserves, send in everything! I want them dead!”
As she raged on her throne, her temper once again reaching a breaking point, an army of ridiculous proportions began its advance on the city, dwarfing the previous assault waves.
Police Plaza – War Room – Present
Everyone froze as the sirens blared, looking to Foaly who was taken aback by what he was reading on the consoles. No, it can’t be!
Trouble, along with the others, came up behind the centaur, curious as to what was going on, but terrified by the possibilities. “What is it Foaly? Why are the alarms going off?” Commander Kelp demanded.
The centaur stared at the screen for a moment longer, making sure that he wasn’t just seeing things. With a deep groan he realized that it was very real. “How about I just show you.”
He brought up the alert to all of the monitors in the room. The screens showed the map of Haven, which was by all accounts liberated. What was very out of place was the gigantic red mass that was closing in on the city from the North.
Holly sighed in frustration. “Is that what I think it is?”
“I’m sorry to say that it is.” Foaly said nervously. “The previous assault was only the beginning. Right now there is a force approaching the city, and it is three times the size of the one we just defeated.”
Everyone in the room stood in shock, save the human commander. They had just sacrificed countless officers and fought to their near breaking point, and now all of that effort was only against a small portion of the total enemy threat. It was a crushing reality that had just been thrown on them, that even now, after everything, they had only made a scratch. The room’s occupants stood there in silence, each thinking of the dreadful things that were to come, of the odds that now towered against them. Even the newly arrived General Winters showed signs of doubt and apprehension, something he never did.
Butler cleared his throat, breaking the reticence with his deep voice. “So, what’s the plan?”
When nobody spoke, Commander Ivankov slowly walked over to the holo-table, his face resolute. “I believe this is where we come in.” He said casually, observing the battle map in a calculative manner.
“And what is that?” Holly inquired, raising a eyebrow. She knew that right now their only option was to fight. But even with their new allies and reinforcements, there was no way they could defeat an army of that magnitude. She silently hoped that whatever it was that Ivankov was planning would work.
He brought up his communicator, speaking into it with a calm tone, “All units, pull back and form a defensive line across predesignated grid locations.” Borislav looked at the map for a moment more, then turned back to the group. “General Winters, I would advise for you to order your men to do the same, otherwise we may have a problem.”
To everyone’s surprise the general complied, albeit grudgingly, obviously willing to see what the human was planning to do as he was at a loss.
The siren’s continued to blare as the allied forces retreated to the Southern half of Haven, leaving the top section deserted. From the Northern blast gates came the ominous sound of tens of thousands of footfalls, the rumble of innumerable tanks, and the shrieking of countless gunships. With a flurry of activity they burst into the city, the ground forces spilling into the streets with deadly speed and purpose, and the gunships forming up in the skies, a literal wall of metal that filled the air.
“They’ve entered the city!” Foaly exclaimed, now fearful yet again. “They will reach our defensive line in exactly five minutes!”
Holly looked impatiently to the human commander. “Any time Ivankov, we’ve only got a literal bloodbath coming our way!”
“Patience is a virtue.” The man said placidly, bringing up his communicator again. Everyone waited with tense anticipation as the human spoke. “Lieutenant, is the device ready?”
“We’ve just finished running the final systems check, it’s fully operational sir. Waiting for the green light.” A voice replied.
Commander Ivankov grinned slyly. “Activate it.”