Aboard the HDMS Iraqi Freedom
9,540 kilometers from Earth
Watching the last of them dragged away from His sight, the anointed King of Man sat back in His throne, watching more of His throneship's battle management center fall apart all around him, the Iraqi Freedom engaging its recently-repaired jump engine, emerging from the microjump into another firestorm of displacement projectiles, more alarm klaxons screeching, Joshua cursing, watching more enemy warships, these belonging to the Highlord mission, join combat on the side of their fellow zeds, less and less of His task force remaining with every microjump, every exchange of fire.
Soon, there would be insufficent vessels to complete the mission He had set out for them, not with the zeds continuing to receive reinforcements while His own warships' jump transceivers were being jammed, preventing them from being reinforced themselves.
It galled Him that things had come to this.
"Captain," He said to the Iraqi Freedom's new commanding officer,"send signal to all surviving jump fighters and warships; inform them they are to jump, at once, for their secondary objectives."
His eyes continuing to glare at the holoprojections in the battle management center, memories of a similar day two hundred years ago crowding His mind in spite of His best efforts to banish them.
Aboard the RES Kip Morgan
9,300 kilometers from Earth
March 21, 2276, 1313.52 MCT
"He's running with his tail between his legs!" Gloria's holo whooped over Flavia's CyberLink, Flavia herself finding it hard to wax enthusiastic about the just-concluded battle, the Terran President's thoughts turning to other things.
Such as the rift between her and her granddaughter, wondering if it would ever be healed, if Melinda would ever understand....
"...goddamnit, Flavia," Jo snapped at her, the scene behind her backlit with explosions shuddering the holoprojection,"this isn't a conversation, and it sure as hell ain't about me!"
"I'm just one person, hun," the Terran President and wife of the Shooting Star's first mate insisted. "Those transports that we bought time for, that ship you're in charge of, our other granddaughter, those are the important things, more than—"
"No!" Flavia insisted, her view of her wife blurred with tears, Jo whispering, her voice on the edge of tears,"baby...baby, look at me...you know I'm right, don't you?"
"Yeah," Flavia whispered, shaking her head at the same time,"yeah...."
"...ma'am?" the Kip Morgan's first mate, Flavia realizing she still had Gloria on the line, Earth's first citizen sighing, mopping at her tears with the sleeve of her flight suit.
Jo was right.
"Gloria, have Governors Baker and Trent send the 414th, 415th, 814th and 815th Fleets to the Mannie throneworld, ASAP."
"And," she added, her eyes on where Norm the Cripple's warships had been, the wreckage and bodies they'd left behind,"issue the formal statement rescinding the cease-fire."
Temple Of the Supreme Patriarchs
Judahra, Soyach, Soyachi Holdfast
Atho 15, 2526, 1538.69 Jahyat Soyach
He revelled in the orgasmic screaming of the creature twitching and writhing at His feet, Ansach Boldak, Supreme Patriarch of House Boldak, Sayer Of the Law, leering down at its naked flesh, the thing still trying to seduce Him, Him, the Master God's own Chosen Sayer Of His Law, down into devolution.
Just for that, He made it scream even louder, even more lurid, its body spasming, thrusting its filthy gwynnach in His face, forcing the Sayer of the Law over even this D'manche to send more thoughts to the nanites coursing through its body, causing it to—
The Temple's great hall shook violentlly, the vaulted ceiling falling down around the Supreme Patriarch of House Boldak, alarms howling, Ansach cursing as a beam nearly pressed him into the great hall's polished obisidan floor, the room continuing to shake and tremble all round Him, Ansach looking reflexively behind Him, to the places where the Council sat in judgement over its inferiors, all that ancient, ornately-carved wood smashed to splinters underneath part of the—
Ansach jumped, turning back around at the unmistakable sounds of infantry drop capsules touching down on the Temple grounds, followed immediately by gunfire, explosions, screaming, the Sayer Of the Law abandoning the D'manche to its ordained fate, running through the pair of dark wooden doors, into the flames and fallen beams of the corridor outside, an eight-man of D'shak'aichtar taking up positions just in front of Him, firing twelve and twenty-millimeter displacement projectiles into the flames ahead of them, displacement projectiles emerging from jump in reply, instantly and immediately exploding the eight-man, to the growling and exultation of those who'd killed them.
Ansach didn't stay to find out who their killers were, the Sayer Of the Law making his way down the corridor, away from the sounds of exultation and cries of "there's their head dude, get his ass!" Ansach running even faster, cursing the fact He was unarmed and without his personal guard, two things He intended to remedy at the first—
"Cheevak!" He swore, just barely ducking out of the way of a shimmer in the air slashing towards him, the Supreme Patriarch of House Boldak backpedaling, His mind unable to comprehend just what that shimmering represented, even though He knew what it meant.
What the Soyachi's bretheren called a gator man fully manifested itself, a grin displaying sharp, pointed teeth splitting its scaly face, as it advanced on Him, tail flicking behind it, as it made ready to slash—
The creature exploding in front of Him, someone daring to touch Him, Ansach turning to face the captain of His bodyguard, who merely said,"this way, Master Sayer," in reply to the insult he had just visited upon his Master's person, Ansach following the captain and his personal eight-man down a corridor to the right, the eight-man of D'shak'aichtar scouting ahead, His captain falling into step beside his Sayer, fully ready to trade his worthless life for that of his ordained superior's, just as the Master God had determined for him, before He'd even given him form.
The corridor closed behind them, momentary darkness replaced by dim lighting, the sounds of the fighting in the rest of the Temple outside the passage muffled, growing more distant with each step, Ansach able to organize His thoughts for the first time, able to accept the reality that those to whom they'd pledged brotherhood had proven themselves unworthy of that pledge, as the Book of the Master Law said they ultimately would be, His agents having reported for years of the degeneration ravaging their kind, eroding what they had been, the quality of Soyachi they'd once had shared with Ansach and His people.
The Supreme Patriarch of House Boldak nodded his head in acknowledgement of his own observation, acceptance of what had happened replacing shock, that acceptance just as quickly replaced with the certain knowledge that the Soyachi, being Soyachi, would—
"We have delivered him to You, Master," His captain said to their so-called King of Man, floating slightly above and in front of the jump plane at the end of the corridor, a pair of D'manche chained, naked and collared at his feet, worshipping them with their pale, pink tongues, Joshua's retinue of felinoid brutes standing ready at either side of him.
"We are brothers!" the Sayer of the Law found Himself saying, moving past His traitorous captain and his eight-man, staring into Joshua's bearded face. "Wha—"
And, Ansach was screaming, his body twitching uncontrollably, like...one of them, his knees bowing against his will, his head lowering, in spite of every effort he made to keep it raised.
Joshua, a serene smile of supremacy on His face, His left hand upraised and pointing at Ansach, replied,"I am not a brother to filthy zeds."
"Reassign it, immediately!" He then commanded the eight-man roughly hauling Ansach to his feet.
Situation Room, Royal Palace
Government District, Heaven, Kingdom Of Man
Cheering echoed throughout the Situation Room, as reports flooded in from Soyachi space, BEM World News reporters already on the scene, talking of "regieme change," "restoring democracy," the usual, while the voices of every swinging dick following this on the IW nearly overloaded the speakers with their hooping, hollering and glad cries for what remained of Norm's forces to "put a boot in their ass, 'cause that's Mankind's way, bitches!"
As much as he wanted to, the Director of National Security couldn't join in the hoopla.
Not with six Terran fleets, 180 more warships, pounding the crap out of Trawick's Second Fleet, already finding itself hard-pressed to deal with one Terran war cruiser.
That warship was still in atmosphere over the Government District, along with its attendant jump fighters, knocking down anything that came their way, pounding the piss out of the throneworld, their Lighthorse troops linking up with some of the underground in the Heaven's largest slum, giving the Fifth Marine Legion, the National Buerau of Prisons guards and the MDUs assigned there hell.
"We've got jump planes lifting from Golgatha!" a tech shouted out, immediately adding,"At least twelve ships, carrying an unspecified number of—"
"Planetary defense regiments already dispatching jump fighters and destroyers to prosecute them!" another tech shouted over him.
"Order the Fifth Marines to—" Spinks started to say, the Palace trembling to its shock-reinforced foundations, a third tech reporting,"jump planes have entered jump directly over Golgatha; commander, Fifth Marines, reports he is diverting several of his hoppper companines to try and interdict additional jump planes lifting from the area."
Government District, Heaven, Kingdom Of Man
March 21, 2276, 1337.62 MCT
Catelin "Bunny" Throne swore, the thirteen year-old Hajime Yatate ducking and dodging a hail of displacement projectiles, blindly returning fire with her M65ACR, running in a random direction towards a bit of cover which disappeared underneath several energy-liberation warheads, Bunny rolling, coming up on one knee, the Lighthorse ensign behind her, snapping orders into her link at the same time she snapped out fire from her Heavy Lighthorse Rifle at the Rimmers, drags and tiggers two klicks away and advancing steadily on their position.
Bunny could see the other members of her cell fighting alongside the Shooting Star's Lighthorse company all throughout Cavalry Hill, the highest point in the middle of the largest slum on Heaven—maybe the highest point on the whole frickin' planet, prolly the point of choosing it to stage public crucifixtions to begin with—some of the enemy hoppers continuing to rain down fire from above, the rest moving to take out the jump planes lifting from all over Golgatha, taking some more of its inmates the fuck away from here and hopefully to some place better, maybe even Earth itself.
Her mom had told her story after story about growing up on Earth, how green and blue and beautiful it was now that it had been terraformed.
She missed Earth so much, and not just Earth, but her home, friends and family as well...in particular, she had talked almost non-stop about her big sister, the reason why she'd joined the StarForces to begin with.
One of the reasons why she'd never gone home, even after escaping from captivity the first time....
"Goddamnit," she rebuked herself, everything in her field of vision swimming before her eyes, Bunny sniffling down the tears, reaching down in her left pants pocket, feeling around for the vial that hadn't shattered, in spite of everything...she had to remember to give it to these people, before they lifted ship the hell off this shithole.
Bunny not even tempted to go with, as much as she wanted to see her Aunt Melinda for herself.
The ground shook, a jump fighter emerging from jump inside the formation of hoppers attacking them, displacement missiles and projectiles ripping them to shreds, Bunny following the ensign, the two women crouching low, firing full-bore, more jump planes lifting from the slum, harassed by Mannie jump fighters and destroyers, those ships, in turn, being set upon by the Shooting Star's own jump fighters, the twin tapered cylinders of the Terran war cruiser pumping fire into several of the destroyers in quick succession, the enemy warships falling apart even as the Shooting Star shook the ground and set the sky ablaze with a microjump.
"Bunny!" Adele Carruther's holo said from in front of her right eye, her tone indicating she'd been talking to her for some time with no response.
"Girl, didn't you hear me?!" Adele asked. "I said we found your mom."
She didn't have to repeat herself a third time, Bunny breaking into a run, heading in the direction her CyberLink's built-in inertial locator told her to, the thirteen-year old girl heaving, her face red and sweating, out of breath by the time she'd reached Adele and a knot of Lighthorsemen and Hajime Yatate furiously returning enemy fire at the same time they knelt round....
"Fuck," Bunny whispered, not able to take her eyes off her mom's bruised, broken, desecrated body, one of the Lighthorsemen removing the fucking dildos some Mannie asshole had shoved into every part of her, before she and one of her comrades gently lowered her into a waiting body bag.