“I will feel no guilt on shutting my door to those who didn't listen.”
- The Journey to the Afterlife
There isn't much time until we crash, so I take Seria in my arms and summon as many barriers as I can. Shade's previous incarnation never struck me as a trustworthy character and his new ego as Shade seems to be even more unstable. Why isn't he using any weapons on the pyramid? They must have thrice as many people over there as us. If we board them, we surely have to pay the price in blood.
Shade's attention is suddenly on us. Again, he is ignoring the screen in front of us where the pyramid is rapidly growing larger, making everyone aware of the difference in size. “Hey, don't grope my daughter in my presence! Go and get a room!”
“Oh, I don't know, Dad. He is just holding me so that he can protect me. It's nice to have a man with protective instincts.” Seria chuckles and uses her position to pinch my arm as if I am a piece of meat. Then she takes my hand and guides it lower, suggesting something inappropriate. It makes my blood boil, igniting the wish to find a quiet place and...
I've to correct myself. They are both mad! We are engaging the enemy and they are thinking about that!
One moment later, our shield makes contact with the pyramid's and there is a blinding flash of light. Then we impact the other ship and the sudden change in velocity throws some of the people forward, despite them holding onto their consoles. Shade is almost unaffected, as he apparently has enough safety measures in place. One of my wards is also intended to dampen the effects of impacts, which I was able to apply to this situation. All Seria and I feel, is a soft rocking motion. It's definitely better than being thrown across the room.
The camera vision goes dark as we smash through the pyramid’s metal hull and the first person view on the main screen is replaced by a three dimensional representation of the collision.
Being inside the silent command bridge makes the whole collision somehow unreal. The citadel digs itself deep into the pyramid, tearing through metal plates and crushing them as if they were paper. It feels like the entire collision takes seconds until the tactical display decides to show us a blue model of the citadel being lodged halfway inside the red model of the pyramid. Some blue and red fragments signal that the collision also threw out some debris, which is now spiralling away from us.
“We broke off some of our decorative elements. I've to take ramming tactics into account for my next design.” Shade complains and manipulates his console, zooming closer in to get a better picture of the pyramid's layout. It seems like our sensors are now able to penetrate the pyramid, giving us a map of its design.
Seria separates herself from me and crosses her arms in front of her chest. “Well, that was certainly not what you designed the citadel for. Do you care to explain why we suddenly had to go kamikaze on them?”
Shade furrows his forehead and zooms the map farther out until we can see the whole swarm. “There are simply too many of them. Sooner or later the ship would run out of energy, so I decided to hide in the only safe place I could find.”
I almost double over. “Hide? Safe place?” How the hell did he come to that conclusion!?
Seria's father spreads his hands and gestures at the screen. “Isn't it obvious? Most of the spirits have less intelligence than a chicken. I highly doubt that they can differentiate between friend and foe, so the ones who are using them as drones must keep them away from their base, or control centre, or whatever this pyramid is. Otherwise they would attack the pyramid. And now that we are a part of the pyramid, we are also safe from attack.” Shade gets up and smiles at us. “Oh, by the way, give the command to start the boarding action.”
One of the operators starts giving instructions and the map zooms closer once more, deploying markers for our troops as they are leaving the citadel. I watch the scene for a few seconds, hoping that Shade didn't jump to conclusions too fast. After a while I've to admit that he is right. The spirits aren't attacking the pyramid, instead they are staying at a respectful distance.
When we entered this dimension, the spirits immediately started converging on our position. It was as if they were drawn in by a magnet. But now that we are close to the pyramid, most of them seem to be returning to their positions in the swarm.
I decide to leave the boarding action to Shade and use the console next to me to call up a picture of the whole swarm. “It seems like the pyramid is the centre of the swarm. So it must also hold the Spirits close, not just repel them. Maybe the swarm disperses if we destroy the pyramid? Even if some spirits stay in place, our enemy would first have to collect all of them again.”
“And maybe they simply stay in place until they send a replacement pyramid. This is obviously not their main staging area. It’s impressive, but too small for conquering a multiverse. But your idea is certainly worth the try, once we've explored our other options.” Shade points at the big screen. “Our troops report that they encountered humanoids who are definitely not spirits, or at least the smarter version of them.”
The model of the pyramid is now filled with tactical symbols. They represent our troops as they cut their way through the foreign structure, mostly ignoring the pyramid's layout. “Why aren't they using the existing tunnels and rooms?”
Seria decides to enlighten me. “Standard seize procedure for foreign enemy structures. I've written the protocol for our boarding parties. They are instructed to avoid using existing tunnels wherever possible. Especially when it's so easy to cut through the structure. It causes all sorts of problems for the defenders and lessens their control over their own vessel. The more energy lines we cut, the less control they have. Taking an unexpected route through the floor or the ceiling also avoids traps and lessens the chance that our people get trapped between two fronts. Fighting in enclosed spaces is always troublesome, but more so if the opponent is more familiar with the layout. Changing the layout also ensures to lessen the enemy's advantage.”
I need a moment to digest Seria's mental outburst, then I decide on an answer. “You definitely had a lot more time to think about this.”
She smiles. “I am my parents' executioner. That didn't only include killing people, but also taking command of our forces.”
An operator at one of the front consoles turns around to give us a report. “We've encountered only weak resistance so far. Seems like there are a lot less defenders than expected. The only places where our soldiers are being challenged, are at what we identified as the main power supply and the enemy command centre. The defenders have apparently given up on the rest of the pyramid.”
I furrow my forehead, not trusting the report. “That sounds a little too easy.”
Shade punches his palm with his fist. “Not in the least! I’ve waited for years for this moment.”