Chapter 46 – Robotic Chaos

Chapter 46 – Robotic Chaos

Thunderous explosions from tank and laser fire echoed through the valley containing the ancient Aldredian outpost as the two Drakkar factions continued engaging each other in battle. Intense rumbling and shaking penetrated even the outpost itself, allowing Colonel Saito and his team to easily determine the situation outside before leaving the confines of the building.

Are they really still fighting…? Danielle questioned warily, her inquiry punctuated by echoing laser fire.

“Who knows what goes through Drakkar minds,” Saito muttered, “but we need to get out of here. Priority one: crossing the clearing that surrounds the base. Mote, Kate, Danielle, you’re up! Regroup once we reach the treeline!”

Understood! Mote responded, and then dashed toward the door leading to the outpost’s exterior. After pausing for just long enough to confirm that Danielle and Kate were with him, he blasted the door open with a fierce electrical pulse, revealing the sunlit grounds outside — and a team of Drakkars using the doorway as cover. Danielle immediately enlarged her fist and used it to knock the Drakkars away before they could react, at which point Kate blasted them with a rocket, disorienting them further.

As soon as the doorway was clear, Mote lunged out into the open. Debris and broken barricades littered the clearing surrounding the outpost, with Drakkars using them all for cover as they alternated between ducking down and firing their laser weapons. Some distance to the right appeared to be a massive crater — based on its position, Mote guessed that it was where the underground hangar had caved in. More pertinent than that, however, were the myriad Drakkar fightercraft filling the skies above, the handful of tanks still positioned in the upper valley and firing down into the fray… and the looming silhouette of a wrecked Drakkar Cruiser, growing red from the heat of re-entry as it drew ever closer to the outpost grounds.

It still has a way to fall Mote observed, but we really are on the clock! With that in mind, he whirled around to launch a lightning storm across half of the battlefield, wiping out the shields of a handful of Drakkar soldiers and forcing the rest into cover. Kate quickly followed by blowing them up with a newly fabricated rocket launcher, which she then turned on the distant tanks — though not before one of their laser blasts exploded the ground at her and Mote’s feet, flinging the two of them back. Danielle rushed to their rescue, once again taking on the form of a large mech as she caught her friends mid-air and then turned her head-mounted miniguns on the tanks, ripping into their energy shields from afar.

Don’t bother with us! Get the Colonel and the Major! Mote shouted up at Danielle as he engaged his armor’s flight system. With it, he zoomed through the air and back to the ground, where he resumed wiping out the Drakkar soldiers that filled the nearby clearing. His powerful control over electricity soon proved too much for the Drakkars to handle, leaving the immediate battlefield clear of hostiles; Mote immediately flew for the treeline, ducking back and forth randomly to evade incoming fire from the Drakkar tanks. A bright flash of light signaled the destruction of one tank as Kate engaged her Overdrive again to power up her explosives, but Mote focused on the mission at hand, soon joining back up with Colonel Saito and Major Hackett just as Danielle deposited them on the ground in the nearby forest.

“What a warzone…” Hackett muttered.

“And the Drakkars’ beam jammers are still active,” Saito stated with a scowl. “Is the side that won the space battle just trying to prevent the other side’s forces from fleeing…? Either way, it means the Once In a Blue Moon won’t be able to beam us up until we can escape the jammers.”

Those fucking Drakkars just don’t know how to take the fucking L, Kate remarked.

“Maybe not, but it’s up to us to deal—“

The sound of wrenching metal and crumbling stone suddenly echoed through the valley, drawing the team’s attention back to the outpost. Cracks rapidly formed across the ground between the outpost building and the crater next to it, followed a second later by the ground completely collapsing — and bringing the outpost with it. The metal walls crumpled into each other, the debris sliding into the newly formed sinkhole that itself began to grow in size as the force of the collapsing building caused more underground cave-ins.

…And this is why you should be careful with your explosives, Mote declared as he turned to give Kate a reprimanding glare. Imagine if we were caught in that.

Yeah, well we weren’t, so fucking what? Kate retorted. More importantly— wait a fucking minute. Is that…?

Mote turned his attention back to the sinkhole, where Kate was pointing. As the metal and rock debris fell into the sinkhole, several pieces of them had begun to glow a bright blue before suddenly dispersing into clouds of blue particles — and then a second later, a humanoid form with two pairs of mechanical wings exploded out of the debris and stopped in the air over the collapsing outpost.

The robot’s still alive?! Danielle exclaimed.

What the fucking hell? My explosives should’ve fucking obliterated it! Kate remarked indignantly.

Damn… we can’t just let it get away! Mote snapped his attention to Saito. Sir! Permission to pursue?

“You don’t have long,” Saito commented as he glanced up at the Cruiser wreck falling through the skies. “But permission granted!”

Thank you, sir! Now, Danielle, get the rest of them out of here! Without waiting for a response, Mote once more engaged his armor’s flight system, zipping through the air toward the robot. He quickly ducked to the side to make way for a parting gift from Kate: one final rocket, that exploded against the zeta robot’s shields and sent it reeling. In the brief opening afterward, Mote summoned his battlehammer and slammed it over the robot’s head, launching it groundward. The robot managed to recover before it actually hit the ground, however, allowing it to rapidly return to the air and fly a large arc around Mote. With an irritated scowl, Mote launched several lightning strikes at the robot, only for it to swing its scythe through the air and materialize rock and metal debris to block the strikes.

So it can re-materialize debris that it annihilated with its scythe Mote mused as he began flying evasive maneuvers in the skies to evade Drakkar laser fire. That’s odd— wait a second. That scythe, I’ve seen it before! Back on Earth, when the recruits first confronted EA, he used that scythe on Austin. I don’t remember the details from the report, but Austin showed up later unharmed, so that weapon clearly has the ability to re-constitute things that it’s destroyed. Which is all the more reason to destroy that robot now — we can’t let EA get his hands on that Drive!

With renewed determination, Mote focused his attention on the opposing robot. It appeared to be momentarily distracted by evading the weapons fire of a Drakkar fightercraft, so Mote quickly seized the opportunity to fly up to it at high speeds and again slam his hammer into it. Energy shields flared as the robot recoiled from the blow, only to immediately swing its scythe toward Mote — who for a moment moved to block it with the shaft of his hammer, only to think better and throw himself backwards to avoid the blade entirely. An explosion of energy soon filled Mote’s vision, launching him off to the side and blocking his sight for a second as his armor’s energy shielding flared up to protect him. Damn Drakkars…! he muttered, turning his attention to a passing fightercraft for just a second to zero out the voltage on its energy shielding and then blast the unprotected vehicle with lightning. The sparking husk of the fightercraft began to fall out of the sky… only for the zeta robot to rush to its side and cleanly slice through it with its scythe, causing it to disperse into a cloud of blue particles that rapidly coalesced onto and disappeared into the scythe’s blade.

Mote immediately responded by throwing out several more lightning strikes. All of his attacks landed, but the robot continued to shrug them off as it zigged and zagged through the air, evading Drakkar laser fire while it closed in on Mote. It made a swing with its scythe, but Mote easily predicted the move and ducked away, using the opening to land his own hammer attack instead. The robot staggered under the blow, losing air for just a couple moments before flapping its giant mechanical wings and zipping upward. Mote quickly gave chase, noting for a moment that the wrecked Drakkar Cruiser now appeared to be nearly the size of the moon in the sky — though he then threw himself to the side as two Drakkar fightercraft appeared in the immediate airspace, firing their lasers at everything around: each other, Mote, and the robot alike. An energy blast sent Mote reeling, but he responded quickly, zeroing out the fightercraft’s shielding and then blasting it as he had done before. Just as he did, however, he noticed the robot flying up to the other frightercraft and sinking its scythe into his hull — even through its shields. Half a second later, the fightercraft dispersed into a blue cloud and disappeared into the scythe’s blade.

Even through energy shielding—?! Mote’s thoughts were interrupted as the robot turned toward him and swung its scythe through the open air. A bright flash of light accompanied the appearance of a large cloud of blue particles, that rapidly transformed back into the Drakkar fightercraft — which was now on a direct collision course with Mote. Caught completely off-guard by the move, Mote soon found himself pinned against the fightercraft’s frontside as it began again to maneuver through the air. With a scowl, he did the same to that craft that he had done to the other two, using the final lightning blast to also launch himself away. But just as he did, the robot appeared from behind the newly-wrecked fightercraft, scythe outstretched as it dodged around the husk and bared down on Mote. He had little time to react, but was still able to narrowly evade the incoming scythe swing, and then take advantage of the opening to bring up his own battlehammer and swing it down on the robot. Before the hammer connected, however, the robot whipped back around, swinging its scythe with it to cleanly deflect Mote’s hammer.

What the—?! he exclaimed, again caught off-guard by the robot’s actions — but this time, it was in melee range. Immediately, the robot rolled the shaft in its hands, snapping the scythe blade directly toward Mote and slamming the pointed tip into his chestplate. The blade impacted with a sharp metallic ding, the force from the blow knocking Mote backward through the air. He tumbled for a second before righting himself, reflexively bringing his hammer up into a defensive position as he glared at the robot, only for it to back off and hover in the air, as if staring at him.

What is it doing…? Mote began to mutter, and then glanced down at himself, and the crimson, gold, and black armor that still adorned his body — chestplate included. …What the hell? He frowned in confusion. …What just happened? Is my armor immune to that scythe? Damn it, even more surprises… but I suppose I can’t complain. He brandished his hammer again, noting that the robot seemed to have taken a defensive stance as well. So even that robot doesn’t seem to know what’s going on, huh? Finally, I have the upper hand! Not even half a second later, he leaned forward and blasted off through the air, his hammer raised in preparation to swing toward the robot. It’s time to end this!

«Kate! Behind us!»

On it! Kate remarked, fabricating a shoulder-mounted anti-air missile launcher and taking aim. Before her were the open skies over the valley, exposed through an open cargo bay door on the underside of a small spacecraft that Danielle had transformed into to transport herself, Kate, Colonel Saito, and Major Hackett off the planet — and pursuing behind Danielle’s spacecraft form were two Drakkar fightercraft, their lasers peppering Danielle’s energy shielding. Sheets of golden light temporarily blocked Kate’s view outside of the craft, so she fired blindly into the skies just as Danielle rolled left and banked hard. The evasive maneuver threw off the trailing fighters, allowing Danielle’s shields to go invisible once more and give Kate a more accurate view of her targets. Immediately, she fabricated a new missile into her launcher and fired at the distant fightercraft, and then fabricated another missile and fired again — six more times she repeated this, crafting missiles no larger than a typical shoulder-launched anti-aircraft weapon, and yet they still all exploded against their targets in blinding flashes of white light that rocked the air and ground for hundreds of meters around.

Alright!! Kate whooped as she watched one of the Drakkar fighters fall out of the sky. She then pounded on the bulkhead to her right as she shouted, keep it up, Danielle!

«Got it!» came the shapeshifter’s reply through a speaker in the ceiling of the cargo space. «Any weapon I make will be weaker than your explosives, so I’ll leave the Drakkars to you!»

My fucking pleasure! Kate replied with a grin as she fabricated two mounted missile launchers on the ceiling of the small cargo bay. Saito and Hackett had retreated to the “bridge” of the small craft, leaving the open cargo area entirely to Kate, the air rushing through the open bay doors whipping her hair around while she focused on shooting down any pursuers.

She glanced off to the side for a moment. The forest and valley below grew gradually smaller with distance as Danielle ascended into the air; the orbital bombardment shield that had earlier covered the region had finally failed when the wreck of the Drakkar Cruiser crashed into it, allowing Danielle to go straight up instead of having to navigate around its edge. However, the wreck itself had yet to crash into the ground; by Kate’s estimate, it was descending much slower than free fall, indicating that some of its anti-gravity generators were still active. Still, its eventual collision with the ground was inevitable, as it finally fell under an altitude of 10 kilometers and showed no signs of stopping.

Kate then looked skyward; one Drakkar Cruiser may be destroyed, but there still remained another, as well as EA’s Cruiser. Thoughts of the space conflict soon fled her mind, however, as three more Drakkar fighters appeared in the distance, all on a chase course. Immedaitely, Kate slammed her fist into the missile launchers she had fabricated earlier, prompting both to fire a volley of five missiles each. Two of the missiles exploded mid-air almost as soon as they left the bay, and a further six where shot down by the Drakkars’ lasers before the fighters dodged around the remaining two missiles — but in that time, Kate had fabricated and launched another two volleys.

Can’t fucking chase us if the sky’s full of missiles, now can you, you faceless fuckwits?!Kate shouted into the wind, watching as the fighters engaged in evasive maneuvers. They deftly dodged around the volleys of incoming missiles, turning and banking and rolling away on unpredictable courses. As the missiles sailed off into the distance, Kate turned her attention back to her launchers and quickly switched up the kinds of missiles she fabricated. Before she could launch another volley, however, Danielle suddenly pitched down, throwing Kate violently into the ceiling.

Agh—! she yelped, only to quickly grab one of the mounted missile launchers to secure herself against several more pitches and rolls.

«There’s a lot of them!» Danielle exclaimed, «we’re getting surrounded!»

Well there’s only one answer for that! Kate remarked as she blindly fired her prepared missiles and then banged on the nearby bulkhead again. Bring me topside! I need to fucking see if I want to shoot them!

«Got it!» Danielle replied, at which point a hole appeared in the ceiling of the small cargo bay. With the help of a ladder that newly appeared on the bulkheads, Kate quickly climbed up to the topside of Danielle’s spacecraft form, her torso exposed to the rushing exterior winds as she planted her feet on the ladder rungs. Danielle had evened out at that point, so her mechanical body blocked Kate’s view of the forested valley below — all she could see now were wispy clouds and a half dozen Drakkar fighters running circles around Danielle, alternating between turning toward her to fire their lasers and turning away to make some distance.

As soon as she took stock of the situation, Kate fabricated another missile launcher on Danielle’s topside. “Overdrive: Critical Overload!” she shouted for the third time that day; while Kate’s fabricated explosives were already more powerful than many conventional explosives, her Overdrive made them even more powerful still. Immediately after activating it, she filled the missile launcher in front of her with fabricated missiles and fired them off, volley after volley after volley. As she began firing, Danielle also began performing evasive maneuvers again, throwing Kate’s viewpoint into disarray as the sky turned sideways and the ground seemed to rotate all around her — and then, mere seconds later, bright flashes of light and thundering booms filled the sky as Kate’s missiles detonated in the air. The violent shockwaves knocked even Danielle off-course and flared up her shields, momentarily blocking Kate’s vision. But when she was able to see once again, only two Drakkar fightercraft remained as the other four careened toward the ground below.

Must be a few dozen kilometers up now… Kate observed, the forested valley now appearing to be little more than an expansive mass of green. Danielle must not be beelining for space because of me, she mused as she reloaded her missile launcher with newly fabricated missiles. Can’t fucking breath in space, after all. So let’s hurry the fuck up and wrap this up so we can get the hell out of here!

A series of energy blasts exploded across Danielle’s shields, flaring them up again and blocking Kate’s sight of the fighters. Danielle quickly pitched down and rolled to the side, but the Drakkars’ lasers followed her, maintaining the flared shield state. In irritation, Kate blindly fired her missiles, and then fabricated a new volley to launch as well. These fucking shields are blocking me from seeing my targets! If I want to do anything, then we need to stop the Drakkars from hitting Danielle’s shields, so I can actually fucking SEE the assholes. Looks like I’ll have to settle for distracting them, for now! she thought while gripping the ladder rungs tightly to brace herself against Danielle’s movements. A turn to the left, another roll, pitching up and down and swerving through the air — little helped to evade the Drakkars’ aim… until a second later, when the sky filled with a dozen blinding lights.

The instant the explosions all went off, Kate fabricated a second missile launcher and quickly calibrated her two launchers to fire in a dome; she then loaded them both with missiles, firing them as soon as they were loaded and then loading them as soon as they fired. As the lights from the previous explosions began to fade and Danielle continued her evasive maneuvers, Kate’s new missiles soon took their place, creating a trail of light flashes through the sky, and furthered thunderous rumbling that shook the bulkheads Kate was securing herself against.

Come on, come on…! she muttered; Danielle’s flared shields had recessed just enough to see the sky filling with light, but not enough for Kate to actually lay eyes on the Drakkar fightercraft that were continuously landing laser blasts on Danielle. That is, until a moment later — the shield flaring died down just enough for Kate to spot one Drakkar fighter, as well as a shower of metal debris nearby. Alright, I got one! Just one fucking more! Kate grinned devilishly as she spun both of her missile launchers toward the remaining fightercraft and filled both with full-powered missiles. You better speed the fuck up, Danielle! Kate shouted; she then slapped the missile launchers, causing them both to fire a full dozen missiles directly at the remaining Drakkar fighter.

As soon as the missiles were fired, they fanned out, covering an entire cone of airspace. The Drakkar attempted to evade, but the prior explosions had distracted it for just long enough — three of the new missiles soon found purchase against the fighter’s shields. In that instant, three more explosions sounded, the light released lighting up the afternoon sky like a second sun. Before the light had a chance to dissipate, the remaining missiles detonated as well, blinding and deafening Kate even as she attempted to shield her eyes and ears. All she could feel was Danielle attempting to maintain a level flight path while under assault from a dozen shockwaves, and then… silence.

Kate slowly lowered her arms from in front of her face, her vision and hearing slowly returning as she did. The sound of rushing winds filled her ears, and as she searched the skies, she saw no sign of the remaining fightercraft.

«You did it, Kate!» Danielle shouted through a speaker that appeared near the ladder Kate was standing on. «There’s no one else following us!»

Damn fuckin’ straight, Kate remarked with a grin as she jumped down the ladder, allowing Danielle to close off the hole to outside. Good flying on your part, too. I know laser fire is a real pain in the ass to deal with.

«At least we’re fine, now. All that’s left is to see if Mote makes it out…»

Oh please, that bastard’ll be perfectly fine. When that falling Cruiser finally hits the fucking planet, it should destroy whatever fucking beam jammers the Drakkars still have. We’ll just beam him up then.

«I hope so…»

You worry too damn much. Just get us back to the fucking Frigate already!

«Ah, right! On my way…!»

The sound of clashing metal rang out through the skies above the forested valley as Mote and the zeta robot repeatedly swung their weapons at each other, only to deflect or evade each time. A swing from the robot’s scythe, a swing from Mote’s hammer, both evaded while the two combatants attempted to find an opening in their opponent’s stance.

Since beginning the fight, Mote and the robot had steadily ascended through the skies, their clash now taking place several kilometers above the outpost ruins. The Drakkar forces had thinned out, with the groundside tanks finally fleeing the valley while all of the fightercraft peeled off to retreat or attack a distant target. Only the cruiser wreck above remained to possibly intercede in the fight, looming closer and closer with each passing second.

I need to wrap this up, Mote thought to himself with a scowl as he dodged away from the robot and blasted it with a powerful electromagnetic pulse. Luckily, its special scythe ability doesn’t seem to work on my armor OR my battlehammer. I don’t know why, but it does mean I can focus more on offense than defense!

With that thought, Mote ducked downward as the robot swung its scythe at him once more. As it did, a massive cloud of blue particles appeared in the air — a half-second later, they coalesced into the form of a massive boulder that began to fall on top of Mote. He blasted down and to the side to get around the rock, though the moment he was clear the robot was on him, swinging its scythe up at him from below; Mote quickly responded by trying to block with the shaft of his battlehammer, only to misjudge the path of the scythe’s blade. The weapon came up like a hook and caught against the hammer’s shaft, yanking Mote upwards — just as it did, however, Mote forced an incredible current through his hammer and the scythe that was connected to it, and thereby the robot itself. Its shields flared under the assault, forming a golden sheet of energy that followed the contours of its chest, arms, and four wings… and then, a second later, the golden energy snapped outward into an orb that encapsulated the robot’s body.

Ngh…! Mote grunted as the shield snap launched his hammer through the skies and knocked him away. He tumbled for a moment before righting himself and summoning his hammer back into his hands, creating a brief opening that the robot immediately seized on to dash in close and attack with its scythe once more. With barely a second to spare, Mote managed to twist his torso to evade the incoming blade and then slam his palm into the robot’s shields, imparting an incredible electric charge as he did. The robot reeled back, descending slightly below Mote as its now orb-shaped shields protected it from direct harm.

They really are an orb, now Mote observed as he beheld the new form of the robot’s shields. Most energy shields were contour shields, meaning that they closely followed the contours of whatever object they were protecting. This gave the shields a smaller cross-sectional area than if they were a sphere or an orb, meaning that the shields would only have to expend energy to deflect or absorb attacks that come close to the object wearing them. However, contour shields required multiple shield emitters to function; in the event that one or several of the emitters failed, the remaining emitters would switch to an orb form factor, enabling them to still offer full protection. The orb form factor had a much larger cross-sectional area than the contours, meaning that it was easier to hit orb shields and thus deplete their charge — which meant that the orb transition only occurred as a last resort. The fact that the robot’s shields had transitioned to the orb form, then, was an indicator to Mote that the battle was nearly over.

With renewed confidence, Mote began gathering an incredible electrical charge in his body in preparation for one final attack. Sparks began running across his armor and shields as he raised his hammer into the air, his gaze directed down at the robot below him. It brandished its scythe and stared back at him, but made no attempt to dash in and attack. …Why is it not attacking? Mote narrowed his eyes as he glared at the robot. Before this, it always tried to interrupt my attacks, so why…?

In the middle of this thoughts, Mote noticed that the robot below him had suddenly been overcome by shadow — as had his own body. His eyes widened as he realized what was going on — but not before a massive object slammed into him from above. Argh—! he grunted, his shields flaring as the downward momentum of the Drakkar Cruiser wreck pinned him against its front. After a brief moment of disorientation, he forced extra power into his armor’s flight system, the golden geometric wings glowing brightly as he managed to propel himself away from the wreck and to the side. Damn it, caught off guard! Mote scowled, backing away from the wreck as it passed through the airspace. He then glanced down at the robot, watching as it held out its scythe toward him… and then flew directly upward, disappearing under the falling wreck.

What—?! Mote exclaimed incredulously, only for his scowl to deepen as he quickly scanned the electrical fields in the area. It went inside the wreck?! Is it using the wreck as cover? Argh… damn it!

Forcing power into his armor’s flight system again, he dived down faster than the wreck was falling and looped up to its underside. There, he found a hole in the bulkhead that he hadn’t seen a moment prior — as well as a distant flash of the robot cutting its way up the spine of the ship. Without sparing a second, Mote launched himself upward through the hole, entering the charred and burning corridors of the Drakkar Cruiser. Sharp, blaring alarms pierced his ears as he deftly followed the path the robot had cut through, a task made more difficult by the fact that the wreck was descending — and that it was doing so at an angle.

Just as Mote caught sight of the robot through destroyed bulkheads, it whipped around and used its weapon to drop a boulder onto the hole, blocking Mote’s path upward. Instead of contending with the massive rock, he swung his hammer to the side, easily wrenching through some of the side bulkheads and forming an alternate path. He dashed through the hole, finding a large, dark room filled with clutter; it appeared to be some kind of storage space.

In the moment he took to survey the room, the robot lunged out of the darkness to hook Mote with its scythe and launch him to the side. The Electrotechnic struck the robot with lightning twice in retaliation, only for the robot to zip over to him, dragging its scythe blade through the surrounding bulkheads to create a stream of blue particles before swinging up at Mote. This time, Mote managed to deflect the incoming attack with his hammer, and then spun around to bring his hammer up into the robot’s side, launching it upward and through the bulkheads above.

Mote’s golden wings flared as he gave chase, blasting through the new hole just as the robot lunged to the side through the corridor they now found themselves in. Another lightning strike found its mark on the robot’s shields before it rounded a corner, prompting Mote to pursue — only to be caught off guard as the entire bulkhead disappeared into a mass of blue particles, replaced a second later by a Drakkar fightercraft. The craft was too large for the corridors, and thus trapped both itself and Mote against the bottom wall; irritated, Mote released an incredible blast of electricity, obliterating the bulkhead behind him and half of the fightercraft in the process. He then flew up through the slanted corridors, dodging left and right as the robot ahead of him attempted to knock him back by materializing all kinds of boulders and metal debris while it fled. Mote was able to evade the obstacles, but in the tight confines of the Cruiser corridors, it was difficult for him to keep pace while dodging, allowing the robot to gradually make distance.

Just as the robot reached the end of the corridor, however, all of the surrounding bulkheads shuddered, and an ear-piercing metallic shriek — followed by the sound of thunder, and continued reverberations — echoed through the ship from below. Realizing that the wreck must have just made initial impact with the ground, Mote blasted upward, using his hammer to haphazardly deflect the remaining pieces of debris in his way and then slam into the robot above him. As his hammer connected with the robot, Mote forced an incredible electric charge into the head, causing the robot’s shields to flare brightly as he launched it through the bulkheads above. Mote then launched himself sideways, blasting through metal wall after metal wall in an effort to reach the ship’s exterior before he could be crushed by the wreck’s inner bulkheads. Terrible metallic groans and shudders reached his ears as he plowed through the bulkheads, the corridors below him gradually crunching up as the wreck’s own weight crushed itself into the ground.

With one final hammer blow, he finally created a hole out into the open air… just as the metal below him lurched upward. The blow momentarily stunned him; in that moment, the bulkheads around him collapsed, trapping him under their weight as his armor’s shields began flaring under the pressure. Argh… the exit’s right there…! He scowled, attempting to move his arms, or his legs, only to be unable to under the immense weight of the material around him. A flashing warning promptly appeared on his HUD as well, telling him that his shield charge had dipped dangerously low, and was in danger of failing altogether. …Ah! That’s it!

His brow furrowed in concentration, Mote channeled electricity into all but two of his armor’s shield emitters. From prior experience, he knew that his armor ran on Chaos Energy rather than electricity — but it still slightly responded to electrical charges, allowing him to boost the shield charge of the emitters that he targeted, even if only by a little bit.

And then, a second later, the un-boosted emitters failed.

Instantly, his armor’s shields snapped into the orb configuration, shoving aside the metal that was crushing him. His remaining shields still had only a scant charge left, however, so he immediately acted to impart an incredible electric blast to the metal cavity he had created, thereby launching him through the exterior bulkheads and into the skies beyond.

Once outside, he quickly commanded his armor to direct its remaining energy away from the shields and into his flight system — as he had still yet to complete his objective. Now with no shields and gradually dimming wings, Mote flew away from the settling Cruiser wreck and up to its topside. In the skies above, he spotted only clouds — no wrecks, no fightercraft, and no robot for as far as he could see. Don’t tell me it got away… Mote muttered, turning his attention down to the wreck in search of any holes that the robot might have been able to use to escape. But just as he did, some of the metal blasted outward, revealing the robot itself… albeit with a wing missing, and its scythe slowing slipping in its hands.

As the robot slowly ascended above the wreck, it looked up. Though it had no head, Mote felt for a brief moment that he made eye contact with the robot through its lone orb sensor. It began to raise its arm, but Mote interrupted with an incredible blast of lightning — this time striking the robot’s body directly, its energy shields no longer able to protect it. Sparks ran down its remaining limbs, the slate blue armor where the lightning had struck turning a charred black as the robot’s body seized up. Still, for a moment, it attempted again to move… only for Mote to furrow his brow in irritation and strike it once more, this time delivering a charge so incredible that the robot’s armor blasted off, and its joints heated enough to weld themselves in place. This time, it collapsed, its scythe disappearing in a flash of light as it fell through the air and disappeared into the wreck of the Drakkar Cruiser.

Mote stared at the wreck for a few moments, his body tense as he watched it continue to settle, still crushing itself in some areas but slowly coming to a stop. Before long, it became apparent that the robot was no longer a threat — and a quick scan of the nearby electrical fields confirmed it.

The robot was no longer active.

Mote finally allowed himself a deep breath. He slowly surveyed the environment around him; for the first time since he had arrived, the forested valley wasn’t filled with the sights and sounds of battle. No laser blasts, no tanks, no fightercraft, no Drakkar soldiers — everything was now crushed, or gone.

…Time for me to leave, as well, Mote muttered to himself as he turned toward the distance and began to fly off. While he did, a handful of questions began to rush through his mind: just what was EA’s robot trying to accomplish? What did it do to the FTL Drive they had found underground — and what was even the significance of the Drive? And more importantly than that… what had happened to the robot’s scythe?

Mote glanced back at the wreck as it shrank with distance. Between the outpost it had crushed, and the dead robot now inside it, the wreck almost seemed to be a symbol of what SERRCom had gained from this mission: few answers, and many questions. …These Aldredian coordinate missions never go well… Mote scowled and turned his attention forward, focusing on leaving the valley so that he could be beamed up to Once In a Blue Moon. I can only hope that our next mission is more productive…