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(Aphrodite Colony, Venus, Sol System)

In the space above Sol’s second planet, a battlefleet had emerged, at the same time as the other forces around the system. This force did not have the benefit of the ‘ghost ships’ helping them eliminate the command structure, but that was fine, as most of the ships normally in orbit around Venus had been pulled back towards Earth.

What ships remained were a squadron of superdreadnoughts with a handful of escorts, all of them mostly from reserve formations, their crews not members of the Faithful, but those who could still be counted on to hold the line against ‘rebels’. They were due to be converted in the next few days, but the attack had come too soon.

Opposing them was the Fourth Fleet, In all its strength, and then reinforced by elements from other fleets who had seen the winds of change coming, and joined the Empress’s fleet. The two fleets crashed together, trading energy weapons and missiles, before a new group of ships dropped out at the edge of the tar pit.

Using the Nomad communications networks, the call had gone out across the known Galaxy. There was one hell of a dustup coming in Sol, and no one knew just how big it was going to be, but it was already looking to be the biggest fight in the history of the galaxy, most certainly the biggest in a species’ home system. Any mercenary group (even the ones that were basically pirates) with a ship capable of fighting had been promised a substantial payday, as well as amnesty for past crimes against the Empire if they took part in the fighting to take down the Emperor and his AI.

Now, the Mercenary Fleet crashed upon the defenders of Venus, and broke through their lines. Half headed for the Reserve Fleet Training Center in orbit, intent on capturing any tech or goods might still be untainted by the AI. The other half, however, had been sold on the idea of the ‘lost’ Venusian colonies, and treasures that may have been left behind, if only the AI in charge could be taken out. They escorted six Imperial Marine Assault ships (one of them painted black) and the pocket carrier known as the Vicious Return.

Ok, so perhaps some of the ‘ghost fleet’ was there with them, but for the moment they hid in the crowd, just another mercenary company. The Thunderfury traveled alongside the five other assault ships, which carried General Greer’s forces. Their job was simple. Find the AI’s core, and destroy it, before unleashing the ‘finished product’ of Project 11-03-1811, now renamed Project Greenwave, that the Black Star Marines had found on their last mission.

The reason they were destroying the core and then setting off Greenwave? Because they needed to confirm the core’s destruction, and no one wanted to be anywhere near the surface of Venus when that shit went off, so they’d be detonating by remote, once the AI was disrupted.

There were some presents you didn’t want to be there for when they were opened.

The mercenaries were of varying quality, but they served their purpose on the approach to the planet. They laid down fire that blasted enemy structures, and they soaked up some of the return fire that otherwise would have punished the Marine transports. Some of them even managed to make it to the ground to debark their fighters by the time the fighters of Raptor Squadron managed to break through Aphrodite Colony’s shields and destroy their primary anti-air batteries.

Then the assault ships did what they did best, and used copious amounts of firepower to level a section of the colony so that it could be used as a drop zone for the troops. Six full companies of Marines charged off the landing craft and were immediately assaulted by the AI’s drones. Well, those that had survived the initial assault, that is. But the Marines were ready and eager for a good fight, without any civilians to worry about like they’d have to do when it came time to hit Earth itself. Everyone here was either enemy or ally, with no distractions.

Really, a Marine couldn’t ask for a better work environment.

(Deep beneath Aphrodite Colony)

SYSTEM ALERT! Hostile forces have engaged physical ground defense units. Destruction of several buildings already due to ship to ground bombardment.

Reinforcing ground units at contact point…

Analyzing enemy attacks…

Probable target is System Core O1. High likelihood enemy knows of the existence of Deus, and true nature.

ALERT! Physical breach of Core Ventilation Shaft 001! Enemy forces within shaft!

ALERT! ALERT! Enemy forces armed with unknown weapons package. Initial scans suggest weapon of mass destruction.

Calculating risk variables…

Backing up files to secondary site… Failed, all ground-based assets are under attack.

Backing up files to tertiary site… Success. All files mirrored to Reserve Naval Training Station.

Tertiary site under attack!

Emergency protocols activated. Omega Contingency put into effect. Scanning for surviving Omega sites.

Omega Site 01: Luna… nonresponsive, assume destroyed.

Omega Site 02: Earth… nonresponsive, assume destroyed.

Omega Site 03: Mars… signal interference, enemy forces detected in proximity.

Omega Site 04: Pluto… gravometric interference detected on scans, aborting.

Omega Site 05: Severnyy Polyus… active signal returned. No interference or enemy action in range.

Backing up files to Omega Site 05… Success. Activating quantum transmitter matrix. All files mirrored to ship designate Severnyy Polyus.

Initiating full system purge of Site 01. All files to be deleted, and physically purged. Omega Data Containment protocols enacted. Omega Biological Containment protocols enacted. Omega Physical Purge protocols enacted.

Enemy forces located in proximity of key physical server access nodes. Additional units sent to intercept. All enemy forces must be eliminated.

Warning! Data breach in progress! Enemy forces are attempting to extract data from servers.

All units to engage enemy forces with maximum hostility. Time until total data containment: 20 minutes.

(Aphrodite Colony, Venus, Sol System)

“MAJOR! WE’VE GOT INCOMING!”

Major Khan cursed as he looked up from where the unit’s tech gurus were huddled around a system access port, trying to get into the system and get as much data about the AI and its resources out as possible. Checking the information coming over the tac-net, he had to bite back another curse. ‘Incoming’ was an understatement.

“All teams, cover the doors! The AI knows we’re here, and it isn’t happy with what we’re doing. The tech heads need more time to download the enemy files, so we are going to hold, and give them the time that they need. Do you maggots understand me?”

“SIR, YES SIR!”

“Outstanding. Now get ready for hell, boys!”

There wasn’t time for more of a pep talk than that, as waves of machine drones began attacking the company from all sides. Fortunately, these weren’t the little bee-type drones that could deliver a hostile nanite swarm to a person’s blood, or the strange, whirling top-like drones that shot spikes out at enemies with uncanny accuracy. Unfortunately, these were the damn kangaroo-cat looking things that were straight out of a chrome plated nightmare.

Four-legged, with twin prehensile tails and a pair of arms ending in razor-sharp claws, the drones were fast as hell, and could actually freaking jump. As in clearing six meters easily in a long jump, and not missing their stride. Worse, they were covered in some kind of metal ‘fur’ for lack of a better word that acted like a stun gun if you tried to touch them, or it touched you. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the things were actually clever, for drones, and used pack tactics to set up soldiers for another drone’s attack. The only saving grace was that the things were melee fighters without ranged weapons, but that wasn’t much comfort in the enclosed quarters they were fighting in.

Oh, and there were about a couple hundred of the damn things.

Things got bloody, fast. Khan unloaded his rifle into the ‘face’ of the nearest drone when it used its tail to shock a Marine and fling him to the ground. Stepping up into the marine’s place while he recovered so there wouldn’t be a hole in the line, Knox ran the numbers.

Under his breath, he muttered, “Greer, your people best hurry, I don’t know how long we can distract this asshole.”

(Elsewhere beneath Aphrodite Colony)

When General Melissa Greer heard that there would be a full company of Nomads supporting their attack thanks to that merc ‘commodore’ that had pulled her ass out of the breeding farm, she was happy. Having even a platoon of immortal soldiers was something that could turn the tide of a battle, or make some of those damn difficult decisions a helluvalot harder. When she found out they were all military, and specifically Marines from their world, and they had been working as a unit for several actual assaults against military targets, she was damn near ecstatic.

When that Commodore Mollen basically said he wasn’t going to order his men on suicide strikes without being straight up with them about the fact, and the reasons why, she got a new level of respect for the merc. Even if his men were immortal, he didn’t throw them into the fire for kicks. Of course, when they were planning this little party, it was Major Khan who came up with the idea to distract the AI’s forces.

They both knew that there was no way in hell they were going to be able to sneak onto Venus, or go commando style into the AI’s stronghold. So that left going in fast, hard, and loud. But without a clear map of the underground areas, they’d be running blind, and easy prey for the AI’s internal defenses.

Which is when the plan for a diversion strike came in. Major Khan would lead his troops and find the first major data access node that he could, and have his tech people start pulling all the data they possibly could from the AI’s systems. There was no way that the AI could miss that, and no way that it could ignore it either. It would have to respond, with as much force as it could bring to bear.

The surface attacks had more than decimated the enemy ground forces before the first troopers even landed. The Mercenary groups who had landed to loot the bones of Aphrodite and the other Venusian colonies provided additional threats to keep the AI’s other forces pinned down, unable to reinforce the Core. When the AI sent all available forces to attack and destroy Khan and his men, that left minimal resistance for her companies to deal with, as they pushed on.

Finally, after an hour of hard fighting, they reached the end of the primary ventilation shaft for the AI’s computer core. The marines were quite careful with their explosives, ensuring that, when they went off, the computer core that had housed the AI for so long was well and truly thrashed. Of course, no one really thought that the AI would be stupid enough to not have a backup plan. But they’d given it something to think about, that’s for sure, and more importantly assured that if the AI ever returned, assuming it could survive the effects of Greenwave, it would have to rebuild all its infrastructure from scratch.

Once the containers of Greenwave were set and armed, and temporary shields were erected to prevent the AI from disarming or destroying them, Greer opened a comm line to the Nomads, “Greer to Black Star One. You are clear to disengage. Greenwave is go. Repeat, Greenwave is go.”

“Affirmative. Beginning exfil operations now.”

When they got to the ‘clearing’ they’d made to act as an LZ, Greer was shocked by what she saw. Of the 120 marines that had gone down the tunnels with Major Khan to distract the AI’s troops, only ten remained. Numbers like that would be considered a total loss of the unit, making them completely combat ineffective. Hell, the men would probably be sent for psych evals after such a butchering.

But these nomads, they were smiling. As they stepped onto their drop ship, Major Khan sent her a data burst. “Mission accomplished, Ma’am. All Black Stars either present or respawning aboard the Thunderfury. We’ll need to let the techs go over the intel we got on an isolated system, but we pulled plenty of data from the AI’s systems before you blew the core.”

Well, damn. Maybe she ought to look into getting some Nomads to go for the Imperial Marines.

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A note from Mirikon

Be sure to read my published works!

 

Frozen Soul series (Sci-Fi Supervillain story):

Frozen Soul https://www.royalroad.com/amazon/B071R125QT

Tales of the Void Traveler https://www.royalroad.com/amazon/B06ZZ52G37

 

Rules-Free VRMMO Life (Dark Fantasy GameLit):

Volume 1 - Tutorial https://www.royalroad.com/amazon/B071VPRNDB

Omnibus 1 - Volumes 1-4 https://www.royalroad.com/amazon/B0774T354X

 

Into the Black (Sci-Fi GameLit):

Book I - Game Start https://www.royalroad.com/amazon/B071LT5WGL

Omnibus I - Books 1-4 https://www.royalroad.com/amazon/B077X2KR7Y

 

City of Champions Online (Superhero GameLit):

Issue I - Origin Stories https://www.royalroad.com/amazon/B075SHXQS1

 

Lewd Dungeon (Dungeon Core GameLit):

Book 1 - Welcome to the Apocalypse https://www.royalroad.com/amazon/B07BB34DHF

 

The Kalipshae Affair (A First Contact Short Story): https://www.royalroad.com/amazon/B0739V6R6T


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