The Call to Oblivion's observation deck

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The Call to Oblivion's observation deck

Post by Zroday » Sat Dec 29, 2018 7:39 pm

Segment #1, Guardians of Eternity:

Light reflected off of the battleship's hull, bright flares against the black backdrop of space, it's orange radiance in stark contrast to the black metal of the hull. A moment in Eternity....

Then it was gone. The battleship's shield pulsed, breaking the moment, bright blue washing it away. The ship continued on its break turn to port, desperately trying to avoid a collision with the massive dreadnaught hurtling through space. The dreadnaught's guns fired again, hitting their target full on. The battleship's already weakened shields broke as the rounds passed through, then through the layer of armor, then through deck after deck. Another moment in Eternity later, the battleship exploded in a nuclear shockwave, instantly burning all the oxygen that had been in the ship.

"Target down," came a voice over the commlink, "moving on to secondary target."

"Affirmative," came a reply, "carriers, jump."

The command he'd been waiting for. With five carriers and two super carriers supporting his own super carrier, they were a formidable force. Their adversary may have had 4 times the ships they did, but their tonnage outmatched the swarms of frigates and cruisers the enemy had brought to face them, as did their firepower.

"Confirming jump order received," he responded, "Carriers, Jump."

The blue crackling of opening slip space broke across his ship's prow, then everything felt compressed for a moment. Another moment in Eternity. Then the moment broke. That first few seconds were always the hardest.... and always the most critical. But they were all experienced, and not a moment was lost. "Launch fighters and bombers," he said calmly but with authority, "Engage Point defenses, prioritize closest priority threats and distribute targeting solutions to the other carriers. Establish target lock on our ingress jump beacon ship and prepare nanite repair bots to assist it. Begin moving the carrier group to the tac marker distributed by Grand Admiral Donne. Open carrier bays to receive friendly small craft."

The bridge crew responded with a single 'Aye, Sir!' as they set to the tasks they were given. He looked over the tac map on his right hand monitor. Grand Admiral Ishild Mercedes Donne had done her job well, as per the usual. The main battle fleet, consisting of the first task force of the Third Imperial Fleet dominated one quadrant of the battle field. The second task force occupied the rear flank of the first task force, pushing out and away from the first task force. The third task force moved about the outer edge of the battle field, establishing a flank position to the bulk of the enemy's large ships. When the time was right, the third task force would swoop down and interdict the mass of the hostile fleet, preventing them from jumping or warping out. The carrier group sat comfortably nestled in between all three task forces, out of danger but able to project their deadly payload of fighters and bombers.

"Open a line to Grand Admiral Donne," he said, "inform her we are in position and aligning to the objective." The comms officer replied with a prompt "Aye, Sir!" and the message was sent.

"Sir, we've got a priority repair assist request from the Hansel," came a report from Ops, "Bringing it on screen."

He watched as an external camera snapped to the beleaguered cruiser. Hostile battleships pounded into its shields, breaking through and taking bites out of its armor. He wasn't sure there was anything they could do to save the ship, but he wasn't about to not try either. "Prioritize that ship and send all nanite swarms to repair it. Move fighter wings to clear a path toward the battleship cluster attacking the Hansel then initiate a bomb run!"

"Assistance Orders issued to all carriers, Sir," replied Ops, "Flight control is routing fighter squadrons 3 and 5 now, with Bomber wing 7 aligning their run."

"Send a priority target request to the fleet for the battleship I'm marking now," he replied, setting a tac marker on what appeared to be the lead ship in the battleship formation.

"Request sent," responded Comms, "receiving acknowledgment from 4, no 5 dreadnaughts."

He looked back at the Hansel. It glanced off one volley, but took the full force of another. He already knew the outcome. The nanites were careening through space to begin rebuilding the ships armor, but they wouldn't get there in time, nor reconstruct it fast enough to keep up with the withering firepower of the battleship formation. Another volley smashed into the Hansel, sending chunks of battle plate drifting off into space. An internal explosion briefly lit the interior orange. Electricity crackled across the ship's exposed spine. Another volley smashed into the crippled cruiser, causing it to roll violently away. Power cut from its engines as another wave of rounds smashed into its engine sections. He knew what would happen next, and chose not to look away. A final volley struck the cruisers rear sections, punching straight through the tattered armor and finding the reactor. A nuclear shockwave ended the debilitated ships suffering.

"Destroy the marked formation," he said over his command comms, "Targeting solutions inbound." Even as he sent solutions for bombing runs, the dreadnaughts who had acknowledged his fire support request established target lock. Seven battleships became the focus for the firepower of five dreadnaughts, five carriers, and three super carriers, with assorted support. The dreadnaughts guns found their mark, ripping gaping holes in the armor and hulls of the hostile battleships. As their shields failed under the barrage of fire, the battleships then took the brunt of nine bomber wings. Torpedoes and spread bombs smashed into their hulls, taking huge chunks of steel girder and battle plate in the process. Atmosphere vented explosively, only to be engulfed in a single plume of fire, which would then fade to nothing, having burnt all of its fuel. In a space of less than a standard minute, the formation was reduced to five wrecks barely distinguishable as the ships they had been, and two hulls, drifting broken across the dark skies.

"Sir, Priority command override, Grand Admiral Donne is giving us jump orders!" the comms officer yelled.

"Then we'd better oblige," he replied, " broadcast jump beacon to all carriers and sync jump!" he ordered sternly.

This was where things became difficult. The carrier group, which had until now been in relative safety, would in another short moment, initiate a targeted short range jump and hurl themselves into the midsts of the enemy fleet, nearly two hundred kilometers ahead of the leading edge of the Third Fleet's battle line. Once there, they would serve as the anchor point for the rest of Task Force Omega to jump to. In that moment, this battle would go from a fair fight, to decisive victory. Another moment in Eternity. The blue crackling, the moments compression, the return to normality....

"Fire the jump beacon!" he ordered.

A massive portal generated in space off the prow of his ship..... and through it came the other ships of Task Force Omega, including the massive super dreadnaught piloted by Tiber Aelius Memphis, commander of Task Force Omega. And through it came their adversaries doom. No sooner had it stabilized from its jump, Tiber’s super dreadnaught began charging its super weapon. Green and yellow light danced along its hull, gathering into a miniature sun at its prow, before discharging across space, blasting a path through the hostile fleet, erasing ships from existence, or else sheering them in half, melting part of them in its beam, leaving the rest of it floating dead in space. Z estimated a few hundred ships, including single ships, fell to the weapons unstoppable power.

Even as their enemies began to respond to the change in battle conditions, the ships of Task Force Omega set to their deadly purpose. Concentrated beams of light and energy arced from the heavy destroyer Constantine, melting through shields and armor of its target, igniting its reactor. The reconnaissance cruiser, Twilight's Edge, jammed many of the nearby heavy tonnage ships targeting abilities, while the battleships of Omega lay down withering fire, often ignoring enemy armor altogether and incapacitating hostiles in one or two volleys. Having lost a huge number of ships in a matter of moments, and the prospect of facing the devastating damage output already evident from the Omega fleet, the enemy wavered for a few moments, before breaking. As they turned to flee, the third task force of the third fleet, having begun its sweeping movement as the carrier group jumped forward, engaged and hard tackled many of their large ships with warp disruption and propulsion inhibitors.

"All combatants," came the Grand Admiral's voice on open comms, "this is Grand Admiral Ishild Donne of the Imperial third fleet. Cut your engines and strike your colors, and you may live. Continue to resist or flee, and you will be destroyed. The choice is yours. You have 30 seconds to decide." She spoke with power, with authority. She was an expert fleet admiral, and young by fleet admiral standards to boot. But that strength came at a cost. She had seen battle since she enlisted at 16. She would not hesitate to obliterate any ship that defied her orders. And the sector knew it. Her reputation was the only thing that out reached her ambition. It was only moments before most the hostile fleet disengaged their engines and struck their IFF's. Some of small, fast ships would escape. But only a handful of larger ships were not already held firmly in place, and the time it would take them to spool up jump drives or warp out was more than sufficient for the Imperial fleet to turn them into rubble. In a single moment, what could have been a victory became a crushing defeat. Another moment in Eternity....

"I declare this battle zone a victory for the Third Fleet," Grand Admiral Donne resumed over open comms, "Stand down and prepare to be boarded. You will be detained and processed, then likely returned to your homes at the closure of this war," she continued, addressing the captured ships, "This sector will fall under Third Fleet jurisdiction. From this day forward, you will answer to the Eternity Empire, and chiefly to the Third Fleet, the Guardians of Eternity...."

The year is 1711 of the Eternity Empire. Established 1,711 years prior, the Eternity Empire was not the first, nor even second Empire. A long line of Empires and dynasties preceded it, and a long line would probably follow it, such was the nature of the peoples and politics that resided there. But for now, there was Eternity. Just a moment in Eternity. The Empire was strong, perhaps stronger than it had ever been. Many rebellious sectors that had marked its boundaries for centuries were now firmly under Imperial rule, while new sectors became the outer boundary every day as the Imperial fleet made its determined way through space, securing more and more territory for Eternity. Former enemies either fell in line or else were dashed aside, long time friends either made enemies and conquered or assimilated. There seemed to be nothing in the Dark skies that could slow the advance of the Empire's might. With each conquest, Eternity only grew stronger. It's navy grew with each captured enemy fleet, its treasury with every captured government's war chest, its might with every captured resource and population center. Eternity marched on, no end to its hunger. This was the world as the Third fleet knew it.

Ever the leading edge of Imperial might on the main front, the Third fleet was the embodiment of Eternity. Under Grand Admiral Ishild Mercedes Donne, the Third fleet had gone on to victory after victory, securing thousands of captured warships and crews, and hundreds of systems. Few Fleet commanders had reached the highest reaches of the heavens as quickly as she had in her career, and it was unlikely many would follow. Ishild was a tall, proud woman. She wore her black hair in a tight weave. Her dark eyes were sharp and piercing, leaving little to hide in anyone they looked into. Her warrior heritage was evident in her strong facial features and solid build. She was not unattractive, but many had learned the terrible cost of mistaking her for another pretty face. She was tall, and seemingly built of iron, so unlike many who spent their lives in space. Ice ran in her veins, and her will was stronger than Grade A battle plate.

It would take nothing less than such an unyielding constitution to manage her charge. The Third fleet was not the largest fleet in the Navy. It was also arguably not the strongest. Naturally the First fleet, responsible for defense of the Inner Core, far outweighed the third fleet in tonnage, though it possessed a similar number of ships. Likewise, the Second fleet, responsible for defending the Outer Core, possessed a far greater number of ships and tonnage. Yet it was the Third fleet that was charged with expanding the borders of the Empire. Because of this, the Third fleet possessed the most significant concentration of experienced Officers and technological advantage. This was not unrelated to Grand Admiral Donne's own successes. Her Command staff included many senior Admirals and Vice Admirals, all with years of combat experience. These were accrued slowly over the course of her career, as she achieved each successive victory, either in the form of recognition of her prowess, or the spoils of war for her conquests. In time, her success would see the Third Fleet surpass both the First and Second fleets in might and splendour. For now, she settled on achieving victory, and keeping her fleet together, for the cost of her success was bitter envy and rivalry. Every fleet commander in Eternity watched her every move, waiting for her to fail. Many were not satisfied with mere watching. Many chose to add stumbling blocks to her path, to risk everything in the hopes of the one thing that mattered in Eternity: Success. In any and all endeavors, the only measure was success. If an individual succeeded, they were applauded. If they did not, then the punishment was of the utmost severity. For Grand Admiral Ishild Mercedes Donne, her greatest threat would never come from any external force. She was well equipped and prepared to deal with any enemy, any fleet, any obstacle or developing event those outside Eternity could throw at her. Far greater a threat to her would come from within, when one of her rivals chose to speak with cloaks and daggers over words and competition, and found the hole in her armor.

Yet for her, there was another, greater challenge, not shared with any of the other Eternity Fleet commanders. Her long history of unlikely success, her proven steadfastness under fire, and her ability to find victory when there should only be defeat had made her the ideal candidate for commanding and controlling the highly volatile, exceedingly capable Officers that made up Task Force Omega. A developing project to train the perfect Soldier, Project Omega had been carried out in secret for nearing two decades before the first Officers were delivered to the front for field training and testing. These Officers identities were classified Top secret, and were given false identities to wear amongst the Fleet. A need to know basis was kept for their true identities, specifically the Grand Admiral herself. Yet fortune had favored the Empire that such an Officer as Grand Admiral Donne had cultivated herself in the last decade of the Omega Project, and she was chosen to ensure the success of the final stage of the Omega Project. At first, she had been opposed. These young men and women could not be out of their twenties, and were claimed to be the result of nearly twenty years of military science and research. The implications sickened her to her core. But under direct orders from her Commanding Officers, and a few lightly veiled threats, she complied. Soon, her opinion changed. The Omega Officers changed everything. Their ability, resourcefulness, and fearlessness allowed her to do things she would not be able to ask of regular officers. They were as equally skilled in fleet battle as they were in single ship combat and wetwork combat, as equally capable commanders as assassins. As they achieved each result, more daring and impossible than the last, she saw they had one other strength her Commanders never asked about: their results meant fewer casualties in both her fleet and the enemy, allowing Eternity to maintain its own strength, and capture a greater sum of their enemies. She had not forgotten the dark implications of the Omega Project.... but she could not deny their results.

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Re: The Call to Oblivion's observation deck

Post by Zroday » Thu Jan 03, 2019 4:51 am

Segment #2, Guardians of Eternity:


A rapping of knuckles on his helmet woke him. He lifted his head off his chest and looked around, a slight haze on his vision as his eyes adjusted.

"Wake up, sleepy," came a familiar voice.

"I'm awake," he replied shortly, grinning to himself in his helmet.

"Woah, who woke up on the wrong side of the asteroid?" she said, laughing slightly, but leaning back, "Boss has orders for us, Kaz."

"Boss can take his orders and stick 'em some place the sun don't shine," Kaz responded, pushing himself up off the bulkhead.

"Better not let her hear you say that," she responded, stepping back and involuntarily looking over her shoulder.

"Stop letting her scare you, Amiel," Kaz said, stretching, "Where is she?"

"Same place as al...." Amiel began to reply, but was cut short by a massive collision, throwing both of them violently against the opposite bulkhead.

They fell to the deck grating, stars popping in Kaz’s vision. It took Kaz a moment for his head to stop spinning. When it did, he wish it hadn't. Amiel lay in front of him, her faceplate facing his, her eyes open and unseeing... staring ahead in mild surprise.

"Amiel?" he said, faintly.

He reached over, everything moving so slow. Then he felt himself begin to rise off the grating. The emergency klaxons began to sound, and air rushed by for a moment before a distant blast door closed. It took him a moment to reorient himself. He reached over and grabbed Amiel's shoulder, pulling her to him.

"Amiel!" he said, firmly, feeling his pulse rise, his breath catch. "Amiel! Wake up!"

She stared slightly over his shoulder, seeing nothing. He pulled her close and hugged her. She shouldn't have been here. She was too young to be here, too kind, too innocent to die like this. Why? Who? How? His mind tried to formulate these questions while it struggled under the weight of what was happening. They were just a mining barge. They journeyed out into the dark, filled their hold with ore, and brought it back. It wasn't glamorous work, it wasn't vital work. It was work. Why? The pirates who had raided these asteroids in ages past had been eradicated by the Altis Navy a century ago. Who had done this? That wasn't an asteroid impact. He'd been in plenty of those. That was an attack. Who would attack them?

The answer came to him. He saw them round the corner in the corridor. He didn't know who they were.... but he knew where they were from. Only one Nation would so brazenly attack a civilian vessel....

"Why?" he asked "Why did she have to die for your war, Eternity?"

He looked at them. He had no weapons. He knew what was about to happen. But he was going to hurt them the only way he could.

"She would have been 19 years old in a month," he said, looking them in their black plated face plates, holding Amiel close. "Her parents were refugees from your wars. She just wanted to see the galaxy. When is it enough?"

They didn't move. Perfect, absolute stillness. Their weapons were still trained on him. But they didn't shoot. Why?

"What's the point of all this!?" he said, pressing the only advantage he had. He didn't know if they were considering what he said, if they were under orders, or if they were merely torturing him. It didn't matter. "How many more will be put to death for your Empire's greed? What do you want!?"

He was breathing heavily, panic beginning to grip him. What did they want? Why wasn't he dead yet? What the hell were they doing here?

An iron grip grabbed his shoulder, an impossibly strong hand. "The Empire thanks you for your sacrifice," a voice said behind him. A sword plunged through his abdomen, impaling him, and passing through Amiel's broken body, out her side.

He struggled for words.... his eyes clouded.... "No....." he whispered, looking at the sword point protruding from Amiel's body, desecrating her in death as surely as they had killed her in life. Then darkness.

"Ore bay Secure," Z said into comms. He looked down his arm, to the sword handle in his hand, up the blade, to the body it pierced. His strike had pierced the kill zone. His mind's eye followed it into the second body, through it's vital organs, and out... A perfect strike. He blinked his helmet’s Heads up display squad light, and received 5 acknowledgement blinks on the HUD squad board in response. Sceptre team formed up, and pushed down the corridor, gliding in the microgravity, to clear the bore stations. 15 minutes later, all squad command lights flashed green. Mission Success. Mining Barge 'Dirty Harriet' secured. Operation 'Knight in the backfield' was on schedule. Altis would be defenseless when Grand Admiral Donne arrived with the Third Fleet.

Now all that remained was to disguise the combat damage, remove the bodies, and don their disguises. As per Tiber's plan, all sections reported green within the hour. Their escort ships, the Heavy Destroyer Constantine and Reconnaissance Cruiser Twilight's Edge withdrew and cloaked. Now they would be on their own, making their crippled way through space, broadcasting an S.O.S. into the Dark Seas, waiting for Altis to respond. And with that response, likely sign off on their own doom.

It didn't take long for Altis Search and Rescue to respond to their S.O.S. A short conversation explaining their supposed collision with an asteroid and death of the Captain in the ensuing fire later, and Altis SAR was on their way to pick up the wounded barge. Now.... they waited. A few of the Omega's would greet the SAR squad as they boarded the ship. Then Constantine and Twilight's Edge would decloak, jam, and interdict the SAR vessel. The Omega's on the Dirty Harriet would then ambush the SAR squad, then board and commandeer the SAR vessel. The only difficulty would be maneuvering the Dirty Harriet so as to draw the SAR vessel into the edge of the asteroid belt. Tiber plotted a course that would keep the barge in the asteroids, but making progress out. This was critical to prompt the SAR ship to broadcast a proximity alert to its headquarters. With headquarters knowing they were operating in hazard space, they would then be more likely to believe communications damage. It was risky, but keeping their identities concealed until they were aboard the Altis SAR regional HQ station would give the Omega's the advantage of surprise, an advantage they relied upon. Once they were on the station, it was already too late for Altis.

Space was always quiet. Too quiet for his liking. Especially in the vacuum. It cut him off from all the subtle clues offered by planetside operations. In the vacuum of space, it was always dead silent. On a planet, there was always noise. If one only listened, that noise told a story. The ambient sounds of a bustling city, or the creaking of old trees in the black of night, to the crack of weapons discharge on the battlefield, or scuffle of boots and gear as soldiers crept toward their target, all these could tell the listener when things were normal, or when something was out of place. Not space though.... the silence of space had one more thing he disliked as well. It gave him time to think. Thinking was a dangerous prospect for a soldier. A soldier survived on do or do not do. Thinking caused hesitation, thinking allowed for doubt, and worst of all, thinking promoted dissent. Every instance of insubordination in the Eternity Empire was borne from soldiers being given too much time to think, and make decisions for themselves. But he was above such mediocre soldiering. He had known only obedience and perfection his entire life. His earliest memories were of drill instructors and days of training. He wouldn't fall to such weakness. He knew the plan. He knew how to deal with every eventuality that could occur. He was ready.

A blinking light on his HUD caught his eye. He opened the comm channel and spoke, "Sceptre One reporting."

Tiber's voice came back to him, "SAR ship is a Hornet class frigate. Board through the rear access panel, secure the engine room."

"Copy," he responded, "Sceptre out."

He knew Tiber would be informing the other squad leads of their ingress points. They hadn't known for sure what vessel class Altis would send. The Hornet class was nearly a best case scenario for the Omega's. It was a versatile vessel with a small crew. Its versatility also meant it was not strong in any area, but capable of doing many different things, an economic design concept which ultimately meant the vessel was subpar in every situation where there was another ship to do the job. In other words, it would be completely unable to compete with the Omega's support ships, much less the Omega's themselves.

Time would be marked in the blink of acknowledgement lights, counting down the moments and sequences until they would be required to act again. Until then, they would wait. One blink from Tiber signalling communications contact. Still they waited. Another from all team leads for ready. A pause, the critical moment.... Two blinks from Tiber, signalling the frigate would be entering the asteroid field... and sealing its fate. Patience and more waiting as the frigate drew near. The passing of scanners over and through the barge, searching, seeing if the stories matched. Usually that scan would have detected lifeforms. In the Omega's wearing crew disguises, it did. The rest the Omega's passed unseen, their combat suits designed to block their presence from all such scans. Still, they waited. One more team leads blink to acknowledge all green. Then the Frigate was in position, and extended its docking boom.

The sound of the docking boom making contact with the hull could be felt throughout the barge. Sceptre team continued to wait, tense as a compressed coil, ready to spring. Another moment.... Three blinks from Tiber, the 'Go' signal. Sceptre sprang from the hole in the hull they had used to first enter the barge, and launched themselves at the frigate. As they did, the Constantine and Twilight's Edge decloaked, and their comms went dead as the Twilight's Edge deployed an area jamming buoy. Sceptre team flew through space, closing on their target. As they drew near, Constantine unleashed a volley of superheated tungsten slugs with antimatter cores, blaster rounds, into the side of the frigate, smashing its shields. They flared white-blue as the volley struck, then flickered and faded to near nothing, before flickering again and then dropping. Sceptre and the other Omega teams impacted the hull moments later, using their suits thrusters to slow their flight.
As soon as they hit the hull, they activated their magnetic boots, and moved to their access points. A quick hacking job carried out by their suitboard AI's later, and the hatches sprang open. In they piled, repeating the process on the interior lock as they resealed the exterior. To make sure they weren't jettisoned, they blasted the access point with an EMP burst, frying its electronic lock. A moment later, the internal lock sprang open. Into the ship the Omega's descended, weapons at the ready, moving through the vessel with ghostly speed and silence.

Sceptre team pushed through their internal airlock and found themselves in a T-junction, with an open chamber to their front and left, and a corridor to their right. The ship's reactor core purred in front of them in the large chamber. The corridor to the right should lead toward the crew quarters, landing bay, and bridge, and the middle walkway cut across the girth of the ship to the port side escape pods. The Engine room on a Hornet was 2 decks deep, a large room constructed around a single reactor core, with adjoining control, coolant, and storage rooms. The listed specifications for a Hornet's Engine crew compliment was 6, comprised of 3 crews of 2. Altis records indicated they typically ran 8. Of those 8, 6 were likely to be in the dorms, landing bay, or off duty crew areas. Z wasted no time.

"Simon, Elliot, left, clear top, move down," he said into his squads direct line comms, "Sara, Lin, cut across and clear the pods, Jade and I will start on the ground." 5 green status lights flashed back to him, and the barely audible sounds of Sceptre dispersing. Z and Jade leaped over the gantry railing, descending to the first floor of the engine compartment, the ship's gravity generator pulling them down. The Engine crew weren't in the main compartment. The alarms had not been sounded yet. Z deduced they were likely in one of the side chambers. It seemed the Bridge crew also were not yet aware of what was happening, or were being neutralized. In answer to his observation, weapons discharges rang out throughout the ship, coming from seemingly everywhere, as the Omega's set to neutralizing the ship crew. He and Jade paused for a moment, calming their thoughts and feeling out into the ship, searching for signs of life. They were both capable telepaths. A moment later they both looked at the same door, 3 doors to their left, and raised their weapons. The door opened, and two engineers, looking alarmed and confused, ran out. They saw the Omega's in their black combat suits and froze, no idea who or what they were looking at, or why they were there. Z and Jade denied them the answer with two quick bursts from their weapons. The Engineers fell dead, their blood splattered along the casing of the reactor and back wall. Z and Jade felt their life force go cold. They reached out with their minds again, and felt nothing. To be doubly sure, they quickly moved from door to door, clearing all 8 on the 1st level. Sceptre's status lights flashed Green.

Every crew member that crossed an Omega's path was forever silenced with either a burst of suppressed weapons fire, or the quick strike of a knife or dagger. Their comms channels crackled back to life. 30 seconds. All the longer a jamming buoy worked. All the longer they could afford to jam the area without drawing suspicion from Altis SAR HQ. Constantine and Twilight's Edge once again cloaked, to hide their presence from Altis Radar. A board of green acknowledgement lights from the team leads. Ship secure. A quick text communique would be sent to Altis SAR HQ describing an unaccounted for asteroidlette drifting at sub-shield detection array speeds went unseen and smacked into the communications array, disabling their access to the Hyperspace communications band.

They waited. Now was the make or break point. Altis would either accept the explanation offered, or would not, and they would be forced to run. It all depended on how well each team had done their job. Sceptre had secured the Engine room, Sabre had sabotaged the communications array, Hammer had cleared the Bridge, Shield had squelched the shipboard AI, as well as the other teams and their tasks. Each team had done their job. Now was the test of how well. Moments ticked by.... then a green status light from Tiber.

"Squad leads are to be on the bridge in 5 minutes," Tiber's voice came over Command channel, "All squads secure your area." Command lights flashed green in response. Z flashed his as well. His private line indicator lit up, and Tiber's voice came to him. "Bring Jade." Z flashed green one more time.

"Get these bodies in a pod, double check the engine, make sure it wasn't damaged, and prep for phase 3," he said over his squad channel. Sceptre returned a green flash. "Jade, Tiber wants you on the bridge as well." Sceptre paused. They knew why. Each of the Omega's was him or herself a perfectly trained weapon, exceptional in a huge array of combat styles, weapons, and espionage skills. But they were all also skilled in manipulating their environment. How varied from Omega to Omega. Some had abilities more straightforward, such as being able to manipulate the elements. A few held great sway with other life forms, while a handful were physically gifted beyond even the extreme levels of strength and speed they all possessed. Others possessed harder to define abilities. A few were able to sway followers to their cause, or were able to predict a chain of events. While they all possessed some competence in telepathy, a few of them were exceptional telepaths, or telekinetics.

As they grew and aged, their abilities grew stronger or more diverse. When they were young, they had been more defined by what they grew to master first. As time passed, they became less defined, able to do more. But they still remained most comfortable in whatever it was they had broken into first. Jade had been the first to become proficient in Telepathy, and she had been the strongest in matters of the mind since. Even Tiber could not compete with her in telepathy or telekinesis. If Tiber was ordering her to the bridge, it was because he had captured a prisoner.... and he wanted her to get the information he wanted. Jade may have been a more capable telepath, but Tiber was a far more ruthless interrogator.

The pause was only for a moment. Jade removed her partially used magazine from her rifle, and tossed it to Simon. Z did the same. They both inserted fresh magazines, and slung their rifles. Z and Jade looked at each other once, then turned to head toward the bridge. As they were about to leave the engine room, Z felt Jade's consciousness brush against his. He imparted an acknowledgement to her, and opened his squad channel.

"Well done," he said. Jade imparted a sense of approval to him in response. He knew Sceptre were aware Jade had prompted him. They had been a squad for a decade. They were intimately aware of everything about their squad mates, their moods, their personalities, their abilities, and their roles within the squad. It may not have been much, but it was all the thanks that was allowed in their world. Their job was to do their job.

Sceptre flashed green again. Z felt their consciousnesses do what could only described as smile internally. It was all they could do. But it was the little things. Those were all they could do.

"Good luck," Simon said.

Z paused for a moment, nodded, then carried on. With Tiber, it was hard to say whether they'd need it or not.

Z and Jade were the last to enter the bridge, having come from the farthest section of the ship. Neither were surprised to see the former Captain bound hand and feet, gagged, and laying on the deck plating beside Tiber. Nor were they surprised when Tiber looked up from his captured trophy when they entered, and smiled viciously. His helmet sat on the console beside him, giving them the full depth of his ruthlessness.

“You’re just in time,” he said, indicating to the Captain. “This is Rudolph. You may call him Rudy. He was the captain of this vessel. Now,” Tiber continued, turning his cold gaze back on Rudy, “You’re going to tell us everything we need to know. Willingly….. Or not.”

Rudy’s eyes, already bulging, grew wider. Z could see bruises on his face. He guessed Tiber had already done some ‘questioning.’ Z noted the bodies of the former bridge crew still lay where they fell. A bit untidy, but they weren’t going to need to pass this ship off as anything, until it was already too late for Altis. Tiber turned his gaze back to Jade.

“I need the passcodes for the Altis defense network, the Officer in charge’s name and location, and to know where the fuel rods are kept,” he said, giving Jade her orders on what information to extract. Tiber already had the station layout. The shipboard AI had given it freely, as it was stripped, line of code by line of code. Unfortunately, it had been successful in partially erasing its own memory in the short time it took to neutralize it. Jade needed to fill in the information it had successfully withheld.

She handed her helmet to Z, then walked across the deck, slow, deliberate. Z sometimes forgot how different she was until he saw her with the rest the Omega’s. The Omega’s weren’t especially large, especially in comparison to most the rest of Eternity’s special forces and augmented soldiers. In a room full of shock troopers, they would have looked small. Still, most of them were bigger than the average human, averaging around 6 feet in height, in what could only be described as extremely good physical shape. Jade, however, was not. She barely cleared 5 feet, and lacked much of the physique her siblings possessed. But not one of them would willingly cross her. They may have been able to overpower her, but she could destroy them before they had the chance. She approached Rudy, her thoughts focused on the mind in front of her. The other Omega’s could feel her presence growing, expanding, becoming powerful and undeniable. Few of them could have withstood her had she chosen to rip information from their minds. There was no way a non-telepath could resist her. Already he had to be feeling the pressure of her onslaught, preparing to bear down on his mind. She knelt onto the deck plating in front of Rudy, and brushed a finger over one of the largest bruises on his face.

“I’m going to remove that gag now and ask you some questions,” she said softly, “If you behave yourself and tell me what I want to know, you may not have to die. Do you understand?”

Rudy nodded slowly, face screaming fear. Jade knew what she was doing. Tiber made sure of that. She reached toward the gag and grabbed hold of it.

“Remember,” she said, “this only works if you don’t do anything stupid.” She pulled the gag from his mouth.

Immediately Rudy yelled, “Initiate self destruct, Captain’s Auth…….”

But he got no farther. His face contorted, at first confused, then pain, unimaginable pain. He tried to scream, but so severe was the pain he could not. His body began to arch and writhe. Jade stared straight into his face, her own face a mask of unforgiving rage. “I told you,” she said, her voice deep and reverberating through the hull, “to not do anything stupid.”

She released him. He lay still on the deck, breathing as heavily as if he’d just sprinted a marathon, soaked in sweat. Jade gave him a moment before reaching out and grabbing his chin, forcing him to look at her. “You didn’t really think we forgot to neutralize that bothersome AI, did you? Now, I’m going to ask you some questions,” she said, “and you will answer.”

He said nothing, did nothing. He stared, horrified at what this tiny young woman had just done to him. He only lay there, frozen by terror. The very reason Tiber chose her to do this job. He was scary. His presence a force to be reckoned with. Jade was not. She was physically small and frail compared to her siblings, a characteristic which often involuntarily disarmed her targets….. Before they learned she was possibly the scariest of them all.

“What are the passcodes to Altis’ defense network?” she asked.

Rudy remained silent, still, mind still reeling from what it had just been through.

“Too slow,” she said harshly, then drove her presence into his mind, with undeniable force. His face twisted in agony, he began shaking on the floor. A moment later, her face taught in concentration, Rudy nearly seizing on the deck plate, she reached over to her arm mounted datapad, and started plugging in data. A few moments later, she exhaled, and Rudy lay still. Z didn’t think there’d be any more discussing at this point. He’d seen people get to this state before. It was best to just end them, for both the Omega’s and the target. Having to babysit a vegetable was a waste of their ability.

Tiber looked at his datapad and smiled. He rose from the Captain’s chair and stood over Rudy, drawing his pistol as he did so. “Thank you for your assistance, Rudolph,” he said, then fired, tying up a possible loose end. Tiber holstered his weapon and turned, walking into the middle of the bridge, before looking around at his assembled squad commanders. Jade stood where she had knelt, turning to face Tiber. All eyes on him, Tiber spoke, “Today is a day which shall endure for Eternity, my brothers and sisters. Today is the day Altis falls. With its fall, the galaxy shall witness our Rise. It has been given to me from the Headmaster that when we succeed in this mission, we will have graduated from his tutelage. We will be Fully Fledged members of the Order of the Eye, and will be given our proper ranks within the fleet, as well as be able to accept any and all assignments offered to Agents of the Eye. Success in these will merit reward. Failure will merit discipline. Today is the day we have trained for these last two decades. Do not disappoint me. I will not be denied my victory this day. You have all been made clear of your objectives once we reach the SAR HQ station. I will remind you we have less than 15 minutes to accomplish our mission once the signal is sent. Grand Admiral Donne will bring the Third fleet, and on its wings, our futures. If the Third fleet is not able to do its job by our failing to do ours, I have been assured punishment will be most severe. Are there any details which need finalized before we begin?”

Tiber looked around, giving each squad commander the entirety of the intensity of his gaze for a full second, to ensure they each understood. “Then I shall expect perfection,” he said, when he found no questions. “Perfection is the only grade the Headmaster has ever given. I will receive my mark of Perfection for this Operation. Radio silence until we make dock. You are dismissed.”
The Omega’s saluted. It was not often they used such formalities in their intra-group interactions, but they had learned to do so when Tiber demanded perfection.

Z and Jade were silent, both physically and telepathically, until they were halfway across the ship. There was nothing to say. They knew their mission, they knew their roles. There were not many thoughts they could hide from each other, either. They didn’t know why, but they had never been able to. Many other Omega’s shared such a connection with another, but those connections were often shared to just one or two others. Z didn’t need Jade to tell him she would rather not talk about it. They’d had the conversation a thousand times. Jade may have been the best at getting information, but she preferred to do it in other manners. Z didn’t blame her. Digging in other lifeforms minds was a messy, confusing, and frightening prospect. It was one of a very small handful of things he was hesitant to do. He didn’t blame her at all. But they both knew they weren’t asked either, and when they were ordered to, they would without hesitation. That was what was expected of them, from both the Headmaster and of themselves.

As they drew nearer to the engine room, Z felt the Sara’s presence searching out for theirs. She was herself an acceptable telepath. But she was still learning, as were they all. Her prowess was with the blade. When she found them, she imparted an inquiry to them, to which Jade promptly responded with a series of memories and thoughts, conveying Tiber’s speech and Orders. Sara’s presence imparted a sense of being shut down, then acknowledged. Z knew she’d tell the rest of Sceptre team, so was not surprised when they returned to the Engine room that they were at their posts, ready for final approach. Z and Jade shared one glance at each other, before putting their helmets back on, sealing the air seals, and leaping up to the catwalk. Simon handed Z their magazines, who handed one to Jade, before securing his to its hardpoint on his suit. He imparted a quick series of thoughts, reconveying the key points to their entry and objective, before flashing his squad light once, and receiving 5 lights in return.

They were ready.

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