sci-fi saturday: chapter 014

sci-fi saturday: chapter 014

shadow nation / future shock / chapter 014

The invasion of Rexx Prime began with the brutal impacts of the troop carriers deploying their weapons mid-descent. Smashing into the towering, interconnected spires of Rexx cities, they sent out shockwaves and dark clouds of ash and dust that stunned and blinded the Rexx troops who were taken by surprise as a shower of lasers and particle fire pierced the clouds and tore right through them. As the debris began to part, they saw massive walkers slowly marching into their cities.

The Siege Machines left deep imprints in the ground as their big feet smashed into rock. They were almost two stories tall, towering over the Rexx that scrambled out of the way, screeching directions and orders to each other. Racing around them were rovers, producing a continuous stream of laser fire that tore anything in range to shreds, clearing the way for the Siege Machines. The giant walkers quickly took advantage of the newly secured areas to launch their powerful pulses deeper and deeper into the Rexx’s sprawling cities.

Above them OctoBots broke into windows at the top levels of Rexx spires like a swarm of hungry predators and sliced through any soldiers inside with their powerful lasers. Occasionally, the red beams would tear through a wall and burn a scar into a nearby spire. Fighters and bombers kept total control of the sky, taking out any Rexx units still flight worthy enough to try and defend the alien insects’ troops.

When the Nation’s ground forces were stuck, a shot from a main cannon of a destroyer in orbit cleared their way. As the death beams traveled through the thick atmosphere of Rexx prime they lost quite a bit of their potency, but on impact, the bursts still had enough power to produce a result similar to a tactical nuke. As one such beam hit the center of a vast circular opening in a Rexx city held by a very dedicated army of Rexx soldiers aided by a few mobile laser turrets, the ground cracked under the power of the blast. A shockwave sent hundreds of Rexx flying like shrapnel from a bomb and shook the spires surrounding the opening with such force that three of them collapsed.

After hours of slow, methodical fighting, the Nation’s machines finally made it to the grand palace. The vast, almost town sized circular plaza around it was packed with armed Rexx aided by countless mobile laser turrets which put out a significant amount of power. Rather than try to tear through the Rexx, the Nation’s ground forces surrounded them, slowly squeezing them closer and closer together to limit their range of motion and ability to fire en masse. Using existing passageways and carving out new ones, they positioned their artillery into perfect spots for heavy shelling. Rather than making their way forward, the Nation’s machines switched tactics and were going for surgical containment.

It was a slow and very difficult fight. The giant, ten story pillars which lined the plaza’s perimeter were wide enough to conceal a small house behind them, and gave a few Rexx machines an excellent place from which to shoot, taking out OctoBots and rovers. In response, several Siege Machines flipped over their sleek, round faces and produced terrifying cannons from their undersides that now faced one of these columns.

They fired a potent pulse that went right through the pillar and kept on going, sending dozens of Rexx flying in the air, shattering tile and decorative gravel of the plaza as well as smashing several Rexx laser turrets. Eight stories of pillar slammed into the ground, crushing anything not fast enough to get out of its way and toppling another pillar caught by the decorative top on its ballistic arc.

Seizing the chance, a swarm of agile OctoBots jumped on the remains of the pillars and started firing deep into the Rexx formation, creating an entry point for the Nation’s machines to split the massive Rexx army in two. Finally, the Nation’s cyborg troops began to flood into the battlefield, backed up by heavy suppressive fire to take out tactical targets with their railguns. Their targets were squad leaders and those guiding raiding parties trying to outflank the Nation’s troops. Dispatching them with quick, precise kills, they’d immediately get the machines’ attention to the rest of the enemy soldiers which were promptly mowed down with heavy laser fire.

With a path to the immense palace more or less clear, two destroyer pods screamed overhead with a compliment of fighters which circled while the pods lazily bunts off excess speed and lined themselves up for a smooth landing. As soon their hatches opened, Ace, Dot, and Nelson emerged with several OctoBots and cyborg troops.

Ace joined the fight on foot, using his trusty sword. Nearby, Dot was also slashing through the Rexx with her blade. In front, Nelson used his custom-built machine gun to plow through the aliens. Heavily supported by the black ocean of war machines guided from above by Steve, Christine, and hundreds of their fellow cyborgs with more than enough firepower to hold the entire Rexx horde at bay, they were making serious progress. All they needed to do was to get Ace inside the palace and hold on just a few minutes.

Ace finally came to a stop in front of a group of Rexx, sword aflame, dismembered corpses all around him. He looked at the aliens who stared back with a mix of hatred and fear in their eyes. The cyborg noticed that a wounded Rexx was crawling towards his leg, ready to strike with its deployed metal blade. He stepped toward the alien insect and armed his claws. They locked into place with a metallic sound of two sharp blades sliding against each other. Ace aimed for a moment and then unceremoniously plowed his laser sharp claws into the Rexx’s back. The bug screeched in pain as Ace tore out its triple reinforced, flexible spine. It died moments later.

With a grim smirk, bearing one of his fangs, Ace showed the torn spine covered in blue-green blood to the other Rexx, holding it up as if it was a trophy. The Rexx answered with an infuriated scream and fired all of their particle guns at Ace. The cyborg warped out of focus in an instant, avoiding all the fire that was aimed for his head and torso.

He landed on top of a pillar, knocking off a Rexx laser turret that fell to the ground, smashing into another laser turret. He sheathed his sword and with one more good jump, landed on the roof of the spawn’s palace, almost slipping for just a second. He calmed down and collected his thoughts with a glance at the battlefield. He could see the platoon of cyborgs and their machines driving ever deeper into the Rexx swarm. Rearming his claws, he smashed through the thick roof and jumped inside the palace, gone from sight and lost in the darkness of the immense building.

Meanwhile, the Rexx were visibly losing the battle as the many machines of the Nation set foot into the plaza and fought unit to unit with the Rexx. Dot, Nelson, and their teams helped the process by dismembering entire squads before the Rexx even knew what hit them. Finally, the desperate aliens unleashed their weapon of last resort. Beneath every unit fighting in the plaza, the ground shook violently as a giant Rexx queen emerged into the surface. She was as three times as big as a Siege Machine, a bizarre hybrid of a Rexx and an arachnid.

Her giant belly was supported by ten legs with blade-like lower halves that dug into the ground, arranged in five pairs. Her Rexx part was also huge; her long arms were thick, her hands were armed with shearing claws. Unlike her minions she had a mouth with four rows of interconnected, razor sharp teeth.

The Nation’s war machines instantly targeted her, trying to break through her thick, blue electromagnetic shield. Nelson tore through a squad of Rexx around her and lined up his gun for a shot through her midsection. The moment her shield failed, he squeezed off a series of supercharged rounds that tore right through the queen’s core and accelerated to get out of the way just in time. The continuous stream of fire from the Nation’s robots and fighters on their fly-bys would do the rest.

The queen screeched and spewed out a fountain of corrosive acid that rained down on everything around her, melting through a squad of the Nation’s machines and a battalion of Rexx. Her spine and joints fractured and her entire body came apart. She collapsed in a heap of appendages which sizzled in the thick pool of acid she spewed in her death throes.

Without a queen to command them, the Rexx stopped fighting. They sat down and threw their weapons aside, waiting for orders. So sudden was their reaction to the death of their queen that Dot almost beheaded a Rexx who stopped fighting the instant the queen collapsed into a corpse. Her blade stopped just as it touched its neck.

After making sure that almost none of the Rexx wanted to keep fighting, she sheathed her sword and started searching for Nelson who watched as the machines took care of the Rexx still fighting by the order of another queen.

“Nelson!” she called when she saw him. “Looks like we have just about everything under control on my side.”

“My side looks good too,” he replied.

“That wasn’t too horrible.”

“Yeah, could’ve been worse.”

“So, I guess now we wait for Ace go get done?”

“Yeah. I guess so.”

A holographic window with Christine came up.

“Everybody all right down there?” she asked.

“We’re fine,” replied Dot.

“Where’s Ace?” asked Christine looking around.

“He’s inside the palace.”

“Should we go in and help?”

“He’ll handle it himself,” assured Nelson. “He knows how to deal with the alien species in question and I’d rather not interrupt and screw it up for him.”

“I hope he’ll be all right…” worried Christine.

As the Nation’s ground forces began corralling the now obedient Rexx back to what was left of their cities, Ace made his way into the heart of the spawn’s palace to face off with an alien monster. He had a vague idea of what this creature might be, and was really hoping that his guess was wrong…

Perhaps the strangest thing about the palace was the lack of guards or traps. All hallways led to a huge arena, six stories tall and over a thousand feet across, laid out with dark stone. Along the walls, long, narrow, black banners with Shadow runes and tribal markings hung evenly spaced. The arena itself was perfectly circular.

Ace looked around the arena, trying to sense if this was an ambush. On the other end of the arena, an alien spawn warped into focus. The creature wore a dark cloak with rusty blotches. The hood of the cloak concealed his face and arms. From the darkness of his hood, three oval, blue eyes shone brightly. It eyed Ace without any hatred, just curiosity.

“I assume you must be Ace,” it said, its voice breaking, hissing, and creaking. The cyborg’s primary language was clearly monstrously difficult for it to mimic.

Ace cracked his knuckles and stabbed his sword into the floor in front of him, an alien gesture of condescension. The spawn growled quietly, annoyed at the insult. Carefully eyeing the Dark Gods’ agent, Ace deactivated and threw off his visor. His alien opponent moved back to assume a fighting stance.

The spawn came at him, but Ace dodged and shoved the alien mid-jump into the wall with enough force to leave an imprint in the dark stone. In response, the spawn shot out a massive, narrow, pyramid-shaped dark blade with blue tribal markings attached to its body by a long chain.

Ace dodged the blade, grabbing the chain. Using the momentum of the spawn’s shot, he swung the alien around and threw the creature just a few feet shy of hitting the roof. In the instant that the spawn was suspended in the air, Ace accelerated and warped out of focus only to appear just below the spawn, blurring as he punched the alien into the ceiling hard enough to crack it.

Ace softly landed on the arena floor as the spawn smashed into it, breaking the finely polished black tiles. As the alien recovered, it saw Ace flying directly at it with his claws armed and ready for a slice. Without enough time to turn away, the spawn took the hit to its chest. Before it could counter with its blade, the alien was shoved aside. Ace sensed the weapon coming around behind him with the runes on his back and with his other hand pushed the spawn away. The spawn pulled his blade off target in his fall and missed. It swung the blade around, firing at Ace again, but the cyborg dodged, landing on the opposite side of the arena.

The dark blade floated in mid-air, aimed for Ace’s chest. The spawn threw it at Ace once again, but this time, it had a trick up its sleeve. As Ace dodged the blade and came at the spawn again, the blade’s chain wrapped itself around Ace’s body like a boa constrictor. Locked in virtually unbreakable metal coils, Ace couldn’t move.

“Ah shit…” muttered the cyborg with disappointment although he said it as if he just spilled his drink.

Pinning him down with glee, the spawn rose in the air above Ace.

“I’ll make it quick,” the creature seemed to smirk. “I promise.”

Casting off its humanoid disguise, the spawn revealed its body. It had enormous wings that looked like torn, rusty sails. Sinister blue eyes were attached to its leathery torso by three separate stems, and its weapons were huge talons with four joints. The alien’s mouth was filled with fangs and shot out on an extendable trunk. It wrapped its wings in a dome, enshrouding Ace in terrifying, hostile darkness.

The chains wrapping around the cyborg grew spikes and tightened, tearing through his armor, into his skin, and cutting deep into his hull. Blood stained his now shredded uniform. He started feeling dizzy from the pain that ate into his muscles in a fiery spiral. Focusing on muting out the feeling of his body being slowly torn to bits, he turned himself numb and gave his head a few seconds of clarity. With all the strength he had left, Ace tried to push the barbed chains farther apart. The spawn reflexively pulled them tighter together, bringing the cyborg closer to its body. There was now a slim chance of escape.

As the spawn was about to tear its jaws into Ace, it felt a pair of fangs sink deep into the joint between its torso and wing. Half a second later, it howled in agony as the necrotizing venom went to work, eating away its flesh, and a secondary toxic compound attacked its nervous system. The bite was absolutely excruciating. Falling back, the alien threw the cyborg out of its grip and jumped to the other side of the arena. The world turned dark for a moment and the next thing it knew, a shockwave of red energy split it in half, leaving a smoldering scar across its torso. The searing pain from the burn drew a roar from the spawn’s throat.

Standing with his sword aflame and at hand, Ace assumed a fighting stance. His uniform was torn and covered in blood splatter, he wobbled a bit as he stood, but he was holding his balance, still able to fight. Around him was a glowing circle of what looked at first glance like plasma. On top of the circle, fractal filaments of charged particles slowly rotated around the outer edge. The circle faded along with the filaments when the wounded alien recollected itself, re-assumed a humanoid form and jumped back up, shooting its blade at Ace yet again with a pained hiss.

Ace jumped back and pushing off the wall, warped out of focus to reappear far above the spawn. The alien jumped towards the cyborg, exploding out of its disguise, and sending four more blades directly at Ace, surrounding him. It didn’t notice that Ace was now surging with an aura of extra energy, ready to deliver a blow at full power. Its blades were off-target as the venom cycling through its body affected its aim. As his eye sockets ignited with a demonic red light, Ace unleashed a spiral shockwave which hit the spawn with a blast of raw energy.

The blast shattered the arena’s walls. Most of the roof became supersonic shrapnel. The shockwave from the explosion cracked just about every tile in the arena’s floor and deformed the circular shape of the chamber. Ace landed softly on the broken and charred remains of the dark tiles. Behind him, all that was left of the spawn was a charred cadaver which dropped to the floor with a thud.

The cyborg slowly stood up and glanced at the sky above, visible through the great gaping hole in the roof. The purple and white gas giant was looming in the beautiful sky above, a silent witness to the bloodshed below. Ace jumped up to one of the few remaining struts which used to hold up the roof, stabbing his sword into the supporting beam.

Tensing up his muscles and arming his claws, Ace produced one of the most terrifying and fierce roars the Rexx have ever heard, his fangs gleaming in the light from the gas giant. The vocal blast reverberated for miles, impossible to confuse with any sound that could ever come out of a human throat. The terrified Rexx who heard this roar bowed down before the new masters of this world, prostrating themselves in the direction of the temple.

In the sky above the moon, the Nation’s destroyers patrolled the space around Rexx Prime. Dozens of transport ships with supplies and researchers were on their way to start studying and colonizing the moon formerly known as Rexx Prime. This world now belonged to the Shadow Nation and all of its new and current inhabitants would bow before them as a sign of respect.

In his distant lair, the Reaper produced a wicked, disjointed chuckle.

“Now it gets interesting,” he said ominously.

In the darkness, a trace of light illuminated the Reaper’s jet black skin and thin mouth. He was smirking, bearing one his fangs just like Ace did when planning something truly spectacular.

# sci-fi saturday // books / entertainment / science fiction

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