The Rexx armada was about to make contact with the Nation’s fleet, approaching ominously, like a Biblical locust swarm ready to devour anything in its way. This time they wouldn’t stop. They intended to plow right though the destroyers. Ace and Dot knew it. Yet, none of the destroyers made an effort to engage the incoming Rexx. They sat there in space, their weapons bays closed.
On the bridge of Ace’s destroyer, the holographic screen showed the Rexx armada in all its might. Translucent lines tracked its motion and Ace, sitting on the very edge of his chair waited until the bulk of the Rexx ships would cross a red curve superimposed on the destroyer’s outside view. Even though the Rexx traveled at relativistic speeds, they seemed to be crawling, inching to that magical line. As they got closer and closer, bridge computers started to make quiet pings every few seconds that became faster and faster as the Rexx got closer and closer.
Finally, the Rexx crossed the line and the quiet pings which were being produced several times a second now, became a solid tone. The destroyers had a lock on the Rexx fleet. Ace punched a button on his armrest. A translucent holographic screen with complex graphs shot out of the chair and froze on Ace’s right hand side.
“All ships fire at will, fire at will” he commanded.
“We’re locked on target, firing now,” came anonymous replies.
In an instant, the destroyers opened all of their weapon bays and fired a barrage of red lasers, shifting energy pulses which resembled tiny stars, and powerful missiles which left corkscrew trails of red hot plasma in their wake. IGFs shot by in wild curves, locked on to the massive Rexx flagships.
As the first volley hit the Rexx fleet, their blue shields lit up and almost instantly failed. From above, it looked like the forward units of the Rexx hit a wall and the rest of the fleet was plowing into what was left of the first wave in slow motion. Sudden bursts of multicolored light that erased hundreds of ships from existence confirmed that the IGFs found their targets and went off.
On the bridge of his ship, Ace looked at this scene without a hint of emotion. As the first volley did its job of halting the Rexx’s advance, he’d have to act quickly to maintain his advantage. The aliens might’ve had a much bigger fleet but he had much faster, more nimble, and more powerful ships.
“Release fighters, fire, and disperse,” he ordered.
The destroyers did exactly as he commanded, unleashing a small swarm of fighters which added to the second devastating volley with their powerful laser bursts. While the destroyers and fighters were still just out of the Rexx’s range, the Nation had to impart maximum damage. Even a few hits from the heavily armed fighters might play a crucial role in destroying an enemy ship when the fight was really under way.
As the second volley smashed Rexx ships to bits, the destroyers and the fighters dispersed, assuming a loose crescent formation. Like an anaconda, the Nation’s fleet would now wrap itself around Rexx’s thinned out pods and slowly, methodically tear through every one of them with any weapon they could.
By Dot’s command, the destroyers launched their bombers; sleek and elongated ships that had triangular wings with a downward curve, designed to bend and flex in atmospheric flight. About six times as large as the fighters, they were armed with powerful guided missiles which split into countless explosive shards, damaging virtually every ship in the vicinity of the target. Each direct hit produced a cloud of lethal shrapnel that stressed Rexx shields and pierced exposed enemy hulls. The tight clusters of Rexx fighters and gun ships were reeling from the horrific splash damage the bombers imparted in the blink of an eye, darting from target to target.
The Rexx fought back just as viciously, sending out a shower of blue lasers which lit up the shields of almost every destroyer, fighter and bomber the Nation threw at them. In just a few minutes, some of those shields began to fail. The Rexx started destroying fighters that in a final act of defiance rammed themselves at full speed into Rexx flagships, paralyzing them and even destroying those which already took heavy damage from bombers and destroyers.
Bombers were also succumbing to the Rexx lasers. In their death throes, they detonated into innumerable pieces of shrapnel that were almost as potent at their powerful bombs. Several destroyers started splintering, their shields gone, their nanobots unable to cope with the Rexx barrage. In their final seconds, the robots which controlled the thousands of robotic destroyers ejected themselves as they set the destroyers’ reactors to overheat and explode with a yield comparable with a top tier IGF, taking out nearby enemy craft and sending out EMPs that knocked out Rexx shields.
After an hour, the tense battle was coming to an end. With a better range, more powerful weapons, and stronger shields and hulls, the Nation’s fleet stood strong and was cleaning up what was left of the mighty Rexx armada. Some ships escaped, but most were trapped in an orbiting ball of destroyers, bombers and fighters which kept on constricting the remnants of the Rexx fleet.
On his bridge, Ace made a sound similar to a deep sigh and leaned back in his chair. His holographic screen showed that he lost well over a thousand destroyers and tens of thousands of fighters. None of them had a cyborg on board. Only AI chips.
The AI chips were the core of the powerful military built by the Shadow Nation because each of them carried the skills and strategies of countless human and alien pilots. This way, gifted pilots and highly skilled aliens were replicated thousands of times. Each AI chip was a tactical genius in one to one space combat, able to blend the best of human and alien battle tactics. They were embedded in a highly specialized octopus-like robot called a SERV, which acted as a pilot and a safeguard. If a short-circuited chip decided to go on a rampage and attack friendly ships, the SERV would quickly immobilize its rogue destroyer and kill the malfunctioning chip. A backup would be loaded in seconds and the destroyer was able to fight again. This highly efficient and advanced technology is what allowed the tiny population of the Nation to maintain an immense, highly trained, savage army.
“All right, so where’s 0673UD?” asked Ace.
“I’m looking for him now,” replied Dot.
Steve and Christine relaxed at their stations and turned to Ace.
“The Rexx fleet is neutralized,” reported Christine.
“Looks like you got them,” said Steve.
“Not yet,” replied Ace.
“How is that?” Steve scratched his head.
“This was just the first part,” said Ace. “Part two is on Earth with whoever was in those surviving ships. Did you notice that all the Rexx flagships threw themselves in front of our lasers to defend whatever or whoever was in those flying ribcages?”
“Not really,” admitted Steve. “We don’t know what to watch just yet. There are so many different ships and so many we haven’t really seen in detail before that it’s hard to know who’s who, much less who matters and who’s defending what.”
“That’s understandable,” shrugged Ace.
“Got him!” chimed in Dot.
“Where is the bastard?”
“They slipped past us using the fleet as a cover. They’re headed to Earth and I have a few destroyers boxing him in so he lands close to the Himalayas in Nepal.”
“Nepal?” asked Christine.
“Used to be a country which had the Himalayas in its territory. It was officially dissolved in 2987,” replied Steve.
“All right,” nodded Ace. “So it’s off to Nepal we go. Break off and peruse.”
And so, Ace’s destroyer joined the small contingent which eased a few massive Rexx pods and the small fleet of ribcage-like craft into a valley in Nepal. Each ship used its electromagnetic shield to slow down and defend itself from air compression as they got closer and closer to the exosphere. Reaching their minimum altitude, the huge warships leveled out and screamed past Tibet.
The destroyers locked on to the enemy ships and opened fire. As the lasers sent each enemy vessel into a tailspin, the destroyers shot back up into space with amazing agility for their immense size. But a sole destroyer circled around the crash-landing ships. Before it returned to space, it had something to drop off…
As the small army of Rexx emerged into the valley and surrounded a thirty foot cube holding the massive alien skeleton which Ace and Dot called 0673UD, a squadron of bizarre robots aimed their barrels and laser panels at them. One set of robots was spherical, with six chrome tentacles which flexed, shortened and elongated with amazing ease. Behind them were huge walkers with rounded, sleek bodies that bent at a 90 degree angle, producing impressive cannons from their undersides. Flanking them were small rovers that rolled on six spherical wheels with independent suspensions, armed with a canopy shaped, jet black laser panel able to fire a death beam in almost any direction.
Every machine in the Nation’s ground forces had jet black armor sparsely decorated by glowing, red tribals, save for the odd sphere, better known as a OctoBot, with flexible chrome tentacles and a large, complex eye that glowed red in the twilight. Looming over these impressive units were three enormous machines shaped almost like spheres. Their top sections were raised, revealing two huge red eyes on a cylindrical support structure, their bottom sections tapering off into a flat surface for the engines that kept them hovering above ground. It was these mechanical monsters which delivered the robots in front of them to the surface, ready to face down the Rexx.
In front of this army stood Ace. He wore a full combat uniform with the seal of the Nation on his chest and a visor showing the position of friendly cyborgs and machines around him. Tied to his waist was the sword he used to take down his enemies for the last thirteen centuries. Its dark, translucent blade rested in an obsidian sheath decorated with alien runes.
He calmly walked towards the Rexx until he was within striking range. The Rexx were on high alert, ready to attack, but for now, they held their positions, trying to figure out what was going to happen to them next. Cyborg soldiers scattered throughout the squad on the ground preemptively gripped the triggers of their machine guns a little tighter and refocused the digital crosshairs in their visors.
In one fluid motion, Ace took his sword and drove it through a Rexx who was just a few feet in front of him while it was still in its sheath. With a sickening sound, the katana tore through the alien bug’s insides and as the mortally wounded alien fell to the ground, Ace drew his sword out of the sheath lodged deep in the dying creature, turned around and sliced through a Rexx that jumped behind him, ready to counterattack.
His sword cut the would be assassin in half and before the its severed torso fell to the ground, he had already turned to the rest of the alien bugs, holding his blade in at the ready. Blue-green blood dripped from the tip of his katana.
The enraged Rexx screeched and went on the attack. At that instant, the ground forces of the Nation standing behind Ace erupted with laser and energy pulse fire. The swift, nimble OctoBots jumped around the Rexx battalion, slicing through the aliens with their red lasers. The powerful walkers known as Siege Machines sent out huge pulses which threw dozens of insectoids in the air with every hit. Meanwhile, the race car-fast rovers zipped around delivering red-hot energy pulses that pulverized the Rexx. Driving them into small groups, the machines would quickly fall to the side as the barrel chested artillery turned their eyes into extremely effective death beams that sliced through entire squads in an instant. There was little need for constant commands to keep the killer robots on task. The swarm was able to coordinate itself and plan several steps in advance.
Ace and Dot oversaw the combat while protected by a small group of OctoBots and two rovers. As the path to the cube containing 0673UD was being carved out and packed with panicked Rexx, they exchanged a meaningful look and jumped into action with their robotic helpers, moving so quickly, they seemed to warp out of focus.
Ace warped back into view in front the corridor of Rexx blocking access to his target and ignited his sword’s aura and with a slash, unleashing a red, spiraling shockwave of raw energy that shredded the alien insects, vaporizing parts of their bodies.
From space, a destroyer fired its main cannon into a Rexx squad, vaporizing the aliens and leaving a small, shallow crater in the ground. On the right flank of the alien battalion, Dot was making short work of a squad in her way with her machine gun. She moved just as quickly as Ace, and warping in and out of focus, she kept the Rexx confused and disoriented. A fraction of a second after they would lose track of her, she would reappear and unleash a stream of conical bullets that tore the Rexx around her to shreds. When she finally ran out of ammo, she switched to her own sword. Dozens of other cyborgs laid down cover fire for their commanders from higher ground, and the nimble OctoBots swiftly blocked attackers trying to outflank them and cleared out more space in which they could safely move.
Just as the Rexx were on their last legs, the huge blue cube they were defending began to quake. 0673UD’s eyes lit up with a green glow and with one motion, he shattered the cube, sending its bits and pieces flying for hundreds of yards. A few of the pieces were launched towards Ace, who vaporized them in midair with a sweeping energy wave.
0673UD roared and stepped towards the cyborgs and their machines, crushing a Rexx that didn’t get out of the way quickly enough with his huge feet. He made his way through the battlefield towards Ace and stopped. The Nation’s ground machines seized fire and moved back, receiving an order from the cyborgs. They were of little use against 0673UD. The Rexx were no longer a threat as they lay dead and dying.
The alien skeleton locked eyes with Ace. He spoke in a loud, booming voice that had an inhuman coarseness to it, as if vocal cords somewhere within him turned to rusty hinges eons ago.
“Ace,” confirmed 0673UD.
“That would be me,” replied Ace.
The green glow of 0673UD’s eyes intensified as he flexed his absurdly long claws. His legs dug into the ground and he tilted forward, arms out and parted like a giant mutated sumo wrestler raised from the grave. The cyborg in front of him firmly squeezed the handle of his sword. They stared each other down, waiting to see who would be the first to strike.
With surprising speed, 0673UD lunged forward. His claws smashed through the rocks where Ace used to stand a few fractions of a second ago. Ace warped back into focus just a few yards away.
“That’s it?” Ace scoffed.
In reply, 0673UD tried to smash Ace again and again, but every time his claw carved deep into the rocks, Ace was long gone. When the alien skeleton brought his claws down for the sixth time, Ace jumped up to the level of 0673UD’s chest and let out a fierce shockwave which rocked the monster’s body, forcing him to take a step back.
Ace landed with disappointment written all over his face. 0673UD’s bulky frame was far too sturdy to fall back from just one shockwave. The monster quickly regained his balance and breathed out a green fireball at the cyborg. As Ace cut through the fireball with his energy wave, a powerful blast sent him flying backwards. He had to use his sword as a brake, digging it deep into the ground to slide to a stop a few dozen yards away.
0673UD set his claw ablaze and swiped at Ace’s side. As his sharp, bony appendage traveled towards Ace, the cyborg’s sword pulsed and the red aura around its edges intensified tenfold. Ace closed his eyes and threw out his hand.
0673UD’s claw smashed into Ace with the force of a freight train at full speed, generating a powerful gust of wind. A wave of dust and rocks hit the side of the valley. As the cloud faded away and 0673UD could make out what happened, Ace opened his eyes. His entire sockets were glowing bright red. A red aura shone around his body, shifting like the corona of a star. Ace was at full power. His arm withstood the full brunt of 0673UD’s swipe, holding back the living skeleton’s claws though the impact shoved him almost twenty feet sideways and left a deep groove in the ground.
He warped out of view and returned into focus a second later. With a flick of his blade, he sent out a powerful wave of energy that vaporized 0673UD’s leg, knocking the giant, living skeleton off balance. As 0673UD fell forward, Ace sent out another wave that pushed him back. The monster smashed into the rocks behind him, eyeing Ace with surprise and rage.
Ace held out his sword, pointing it at 0673UD. He jumped, warping out of focus, reappearing in front of the alien monster, his sword held high above his head, ready to swing down on the giant living skeleton like the axe of an executioner on the neck of the condemned. The monster raised his giant claws to defend himself but it was too late.
A blinding red light shot out of the valley as with an unholy roar of sheer terror, 0673UD shattered and exploded, sending out bursts of red smoke as the torn bits of his body were pushed away from the hypocenter of the blast.
An eerie silence fell on the valley littered with alien corpses and scarred by Ace’s attack. From the safety of their Low Earth Orbit, Steve and Christine surveyed the innumerable shards of what used to be an immense alien armada and the bodies that littered a valley in what used to be Nepal. The speed and efficiency with which they were dispatched was impressive, they noted for their first report back to the councilors on Earth. In fact, they would add, this almost seemed… routine for the cyborgs.
Tens of thousands of light years away, another spectator seemed impressed by Ace’s technique. Watching 0673UD’s final moments on a large holographic cube, the Grim Reaper chuckled coldly as the alien skeleton was turned into burning shrapnel and the feed died with it.
“Not bad,” he said. “Not bad at all.”
The giant monster was a menacing brute, no question. But just not powerful enough to be used against its creators, the Reaper thought. Oh well. No big deal.
The view in his cube changed to a crystal clear shot of the Earth with exaggerated destroyers showing the approximate position of the Shadow Nation’s craft. The fleet formed a seemingly impenetrable wall. It was going to take a lot more than just a few million Rexx to get through the Nation’s defenses. But that wasn’t the job that Rexx were designed to do, nor were they designed to actually destroy they Earth. No, the Rexx had a very different role to play…
In Nepal, Ace was slowly walking towards the robots and Dot after a quick stop to pull his sheath out of a dead Rexx and wipe it off. He looked around the valley and realized that it lead straight to Mount Everest. Suddenly a holographic screen with Steve’s face appeared just a few millimeters from his. Ace reflexively jumped back, hissing and growling.
“For the sake of Cthulhu’s dirty jock strap, watch where you’re pointing that thing!” he cursed.
“Sorry commander,” apologized Steve. “But we have incoming. We’re not sure what it is but it’s huge according to one of the deep space probes behind the moon. I’m assuming that’s not good.”
Ace raised his brow.
“I think that’s a pretty safe assumption,” he said. “Can you show me what it looks like?”
Steve clicked a few keys and the image of a giant, menacing object came into view on a new video module. It was rough and jagged, made of something dark, endowed with a seemingly chaotic assortment of spikes, spheres, domes, and other fluid shapes on its top half. An impressive swarm of smaller, sleek objects wrapped it in a protective cocoon. Because of the sheer distance between the probe and the incoming objects, the image was blurry and faint. But they were clearly heading for Earth.
“Ok, ok, stand down,” chuckled Ace. “We’ll be fine.”
“What was that about Cthulhu’s jock strap?” asked Dot, walking up behind Ace. She looked at the screen with the faint, blurry objects advancing towards Earth. “They’re here already?”
“As you can see,” replied Ace. “We should start cleaning up. Can’t leave alien cadavers rotting here. I’d also like an analysis of their bacteria during decomposition.”
“I’m sorry to interrupt,” coughed Steve. “But should I take it that these ships are friendly?”
“Well Steve that all depends,” answered Dot.
“Depends on what?”
“On what our bosses think of how we did our jobs.”