war angels part ii (krusty_the_klown)

Flyker sat on his luxurious leather chair, gazing at the wall of monitors depicting the mass slaughter on Omnicron Six. A grin spread across his face, he tapped the ashes out of his cigar and exhaled another ring of smoke. Things were going to plan. However, the intruders on the newly constructed Megaliths had escaped. How shrewd, he thought, too bad they will be plummeting their merry way down to their death.

Phase one of his strategy was ending quite handsomely. After distracting the Earth forces on the resource-rich Omnicron Six with his Megaliths, he could easily transport troops behind enemy lines and hold Mars and the moon hostage. They wouldn’t know what hit them. Of course if they got wise, he had an arsenal of inter-galactic warheads at his disposal. A single missile could obliterate approximately 800,000 square kilometer of land on a planet, creating unimaginable amounts of atmospheric irregularities and essentially baking the planet with it’s own ozone. It would create a very devilish mess that he wouldn’t even have to clean up: he liked it.

After taking Omnicron Six, his imperial army would sweep through the lesser colonies, pick up a few mercenaries and continue in a spiral fashion eventually into the heart of the Earth Empire where more drop ships of soldiers were already attacking, keeping them busy. That’s where his prize would be. A very significant prize, he thought; one that was against his will, still breathing and costing him time and resources. But this wasn’t just any ordinary prize, more valuable than any sum of money or any hunk of gold no matter how large or pure.

Flyker pressed a button on his intercom and said, “Earth Lieutenant Barrington, come up to my office.”

---

Tyranian Foreign Military Operations Chief, Jim Patton, felt the murky waters slating against the flagship, SS Cortana, gently rocking it side to side. He gripped the rail with certain harshness, as if he was trying to strangle the cold, metal life out of it. Casting a solemn gaze across the caliginous sea, he could spot storm clouds about six leagues north. It was nearing dawn again. He could still hear the pounding of artillery shells on the mainland and almost smell the putrid smoke penetrating the salty and relaxing sea smell. Fatigue started to grip him and fold the corners of his vision with a drowsy darkness.

But, this was the only time he had to think. And the sea helped him mull over the issues and other matters that should be handled as a military operations chief. Of course he had no doubt in his mind that Flyker Glaxcom was an insane lunatic, always chattering about his “prize” and galactic domination. He wanted badly to join the Earth Empire but had no choice since Flyker threatened to obliterate his home planet and offered him a sum of money. The money wasn’t important, but his wife and four kids on his once-peaceful ranch he owned on Seton. Life was good. Was. He would have to make a move soon. But, when he was least expecting it, his sailors and ambassadors boarded on the ship couldn’t know either. Knowledge is a powerful weapon, and could possibly be his own destruction.

---

A deafening salvo of artillery guns recoiled in unison, monster-sized smoking artillery shells clanging hollowly onto the dusty ground while faint arcs of smoke trailed across the early morning sky. Seconds later, an even louder explosion would attempt to bury itself in enemy lines. Theoretically. Artillery intercepting lasers streaked into the fresh air, glowing brightly and raining the ground with chunks of defused missiles, yet a few shells landed and took out vital communications structures on the Earth Empire’s side. Aster Glaxcom hit the dirt as a shell plunged from the clouds and flared an angry orange pillar of flames and flying debris.

Slowly getting up and dusting off his clothes, he shouted to his lieutenant to try and get reinforcements. The rebels ironically had better technology than the once mighty Earth Empire and more sophisticated laser tracking due to more abundant resources on the outer rims of known space. He hadn’t seen any hits on the other enemy line. It was like a sick game of battleship. Except that it took place on land and there were far more misses and his shots were as ineffective as stone being trebuchet. A second cataclysmic volley of bombs plummeted into the nearby supplies tent, dispersing roaring flames from its tattered canvas.

Moments later, the lieutenant trotted back.
“There has been no response. Communications are still down.” He reported, yelling over the roar of clashing war machines relentlessly pounding away at the enemy with soulless determination.
Aster muttered curses before facing his lieutenant again, “Where are the communication lines down?”
“South East from our current position about ten clicks. Special ops units currently unidentified have been attacking them. The radar signatures came back real fuzzy like they’ve been tampered with.” He said uneasily.
“How many?”
“There could be around six to nine. We already sent a few detachments, about forty guys in all to intercept them. I also brought mechanics with them Supplies and more reinforcements is crucial at the moment.”
“I know, I know.” He said impatiently, “What of these special ops you’re talking about?”
“The patrols there have been decimated. Scout planes show no survivors and about seventy dead men.”
“Then why the hell did you only send forty!” he shouted, frustrated.
The lieutenant paused before answering carefully, “We figured that they would be weakened by holding off all of the patrols and there’s a only a small squad. It shouldn’t be too bad. Unless…”
“Unless what?” he asked, another outburst welling up inside him.
“Unless, they have super soldiers too.”

---

Jack plummeted downward toward the ground that he could not see. Tiny flashing dots of muzzle flashes rapidly flared and died out before him, gradually increasing in size. It had been about five seconds since he let go and uttered possibly his last words. He considered telling Greg but–CRACK! A flash of white and then dark blinded him as every bone in his body strained against the inertia crushing him with malevolent force. His head felt hot as he felt his face brush the dead, packed dirt. He never thought he’d be so happy to be on ground again, yet be pained by it just as much. He tried to move his arm as a joint popped loudly and painfully in his shoulder. Maybe more so, he thought. He felt for his helmet, except felt nothing but the icy cold titanium gauntlet brush against his bare, sweaty skin. Squinting at his covered hand, he saw a maroon liquid drip onto the ground. Blood.

His vision blurred as his ears rung but took in no sound. Suddenly, he was sprayed with dirt as a heavy boot brushes his shin. He could almost imagine the startled yelp of whoever bumped into his half-dead body. Trying to look up, he saw a figure bend down to see who he was. He immediately noticed the Tyranian patch on the man’s military vest: a red semi-circle with six lines pointing out of it on the topside. Jack grunted with effort to pull himself up, wincing at his injured shoulder.

He took one step towards the bewildered man and slugged him across the face. The punch connected with brutal efficiency, sending the soldier stumbling to the side, clutching his jaw and shouting incoherently. His sub machine gun bounced to the side, now of no use to the soldier. Jack reached over, picked up the sub machine gun and sprayed a few rounds into the soldier’s face, blood diffusing profusely out of the holes being punched in his face and contriturating the skull beneath it’s pale skin, shards of shivered bone spraying onto the dead ground that was as lifeless as the mutilated soldier on top of it.

Jack limped painfully and stumbled on sheer luck upon his helmet. It was surprisingly undamaged. As he put it in and waited for the sensors to accept him, he tried to find his bearings. His hearing was returning although he could feel the lumbering Megalith’s arachnid limbs pounding the ground. Jack could now hear himself think and listen to his breathing and heart thudding in his chest. He just realized how stressful the last minute and a half had been. Plunging through the sky at a hundred miles an hour in a battleground flooded with dog-fighting jet airplanes and tracers whizzing past his ear; And seeing no ground in sight until he slammed into it without ever having a chance to brace himself. He was still shaky and woozy. Nausea welled up inside his stomach and pushed upward, threatening to break out.

Jack stopped walking and steadied himself with the sub machine gun as he kneeled down, moaning. The nausea rose and poured into his mouth as he retched and threw up onto the ground, the shimmering stomach acid and K-Rations glimmering in the moonlight. He heaved one more time before pressing on, a bitter taste in his mouth and an uneasy stomach. The sounds of battle were now at it’s full feverish pitch: Bombs going off in loud clusters of bursting brilliant shades of orange and columns of bloodied dirt, shattering bones like toothpicks and ending the lives of those who were valiantly serving for what they believed in. The angel of death had come reaping in the moonlight.
Jim Patton finally slumped on his narrow bed, staring solemnly at the picture of his family, smiling broadly in the bright daylight, lambs frolicking in the background upon green shrubbery and a shimmering pond surrounded by brown-tipped cattails. A couplet of tears danced down his face in a slow meander, leaving a wet trace full of happy memories and heavy with sadness. Heavy sobs shook him, making whimpering sounds like a small child. He felt little all over again. Wearily lying on his side into his tear-stained pillow, his heart ached for peace and security. But here he was, in the middle of warring seas on a warship in a warring planet orbiting a warring galaxy: not the place he wanted to be vested.

Next morning, Jim woke and instantly felt his bones be barraged by achy pains from his woeful sorrow. After getting dressed and going through his routine, pausing to think what his family would be doing while he stumble among the early morning rays of the SS Cortana. After plopping in his chair to the meeting room, he started out into empty space, reflecting his own life and himself: a tortured being in an empty existence of harsh realities thumping against his soul like a fusillade of broadside cannon fire, new splinters of his former self being tossed upon obsidian, unfathomed waters. A simple glance over Jim’s exterior wasn’t enough to see his real, dark side.
“Hey, rough night?” someone asked as a hand shook his shoulder.
Immediately snapping to focus, he saw that it was bridge marshal Floyd Bennet. “Oh. Uh, it was, “ he paused, and nodded sheepishly “Yes, a bad night.”
“Jeez, what has gotten into you?” he asked.
“Nothing. Just a little homesick.”
“You sure?” he said, gazing deep into Jim’s sleepy eyes.
Their conversation was interrupted by the buzz of the plasma screen situated on the far side of the command room.
“Greetings, commanders.”
The ship’s commanders muttered, “greetings”, lacking the cheerful luster of the officer on the screen.
“Today, we are helping the land forces with sea bombardment, protecting the megaliths.” The officer’s face was replaced with a detailed map of Orionis Six, showing latitude and longitude lines and highlighting a specific part in red: the outskirts of Fervor Town. This was another emotional blow dealt to Jim Patton, for his cousins lived there.

“Now in the rough center of the outskirts of Fervor Town are mechanical walkers that are razing their troops to the ground. This is nothing a few rebel well-placed cannon shots in the butt can fix.” He paused to chuckled at his own dry humor before continuing. “Alpha Company will protect these three Megaliths by being north of the isthmus while Beta Company will defend the other three by moving forty miles off the coast. The targets are being entered into your command modules right this moment. You’ve got a half an hour to reposition. Once the enemies are eradicated, our soldiers will hopefully penetrate and you can continue patrolling the outer seas for rebel scum. Endcom.” The screen blipped an icy white and then dissolved into blackness. Jim could only think, aren’t we the rebel scum?

---

Another roar passed overhead, moments later, a blazing cinder-ridden holocaust conflagrated a kilometer ahead. Walls of smoke rising like the stone impediments of a great castle, it’s turrets blazing fire, it’s moat belching ashes and it’s dark citadel housing Death. Jack shielded his eyes but kept moving. He had no idea where he was. In the short distance he could make out the hazy outlines of the Megaliths, their turrets burning huge swaths of land and troops. He was grateful of being behind the destruction. But that also meant help was nowhere to be found. Then he remembered. Greg! Frantically scrolling through his helmet’s channels, he looked for Gladiator200, secretly dreading what he might actually find. His heart sunk when he found that his name was italicized and it’s usual glowing blue text replaced with a dull gray. Greg was KIA. He felt a pang of guilt. Jack could have possibly prevented Greg’s death if he had remembered to contact again.

---

Walking back to his command console, Jim used the touch screen interface to navigate his fleet of destroyers, subs and cruisers south of the isthmus. Doing this, an idea came to mind. What if he could warn the Empire that they were coming or “accidentally” crash some of his ships or hit the Megaliths. But there was a snag. He was on the same ship as the rest of the captains and if he did something like that, there would be eyes all over him. Asking for helicopter transport would sound suspicious and reek of mutiny. Plus where would he go? But Patton was the chief of foreign military operations. What if he just wanted to view the battle close up?

Another idea germinated in the back of his mind. Right by the eastern valley of Fervor town were Tyranian artillery lines and the Empire artillery on the other side. The reason there were shells flying was because there were communications intercepting structures there. Yes, he would have to maneuver the other team so that the signals were passing directly overhead. Checking his map he saw that this was definitely possible. And for the first time in a long while, he grinned.

Forty-five minutes later of waiting for ships to reposition, Alpha company finally reached their destination. Jim used his fore finger to trace a straight line where his communication will pass through. Hopefully, they were still standing. “Give me liberty of give me death!”

---

Aster Glaxcom winced as another satellite cell went up in a burst of flames. Their communications interceptors were taking tremendous hits and that was the last one. “Where the hell is our back up?” he yelled. “Oh yea, that’s right, getting annihilated by super soldiers!” the lieutenant muttered apologies again for the ninth time, shaking his head. The lieutenant thought that it was best to leave Aster alone. He was a nice man but when things started getting out of hand, it seemed as though the Devil himself had possessed him. The lieutenant understood how dire the situation was but refused to show it. They couldn’t simply drop back or they would run into the Megalith stampede. Then, he wondered what would be worse: being crushed underfoot by mechanical behemoths or being blown to bloody chunks of metal and flesh by enemy bombardment? This, he understood wasn’t a matter of life and death but quite shrewdly a matter of horrible demise or a slightly less horrible demise. Neither outcomes were blissful by any means.

A sharp whooshing sound erupted behind him. He felt cool metal being pressed against his neck, startled he attempted to turn around but was launched a few feet in a twirling free fall that ended in a rough landing. His back throbbed as he struggled to see who had hit him. A familiar face appeared: the lieutenant.

The lieutenant’s voice boomed, “ You are a fool, Aster. I doubt you even knew my name yet trusted me? The only thing you will be useful for, however is valuable information on Imperial militaristic layouts. I’m sure your brother will give you a warm welcome.” He chuckled cruelly before barking his next command. “Warriors, take him away.” The disturbing thought returned to him: Run away and be shot down or accept whatever cruel punishment the Tyranians might be giving them?

Looking around, he saw that the whole base was in chaos. Actually, the word “base” was a horrendous overstatement. All that remained were smoldering wreckage being crushed by artillery. The men in the base were being shot down by seemingly no one as they ran away from an unseen enemy that was cutting them down with brutal precision. This was payback time.

---

Jim Patton felt his whole body heat up as beads of sweat ran down his face. He had sent the transmission eleven minutes, forty-three seconds and seventy-seven milliseconds ago. Patton was glad nobody was giving him strange looks. Suddenly, the operations room flashed red. “We are being attacked by Imperial subs. Please stand by as defensive maneuvers or being implemented,” said an unrealistically calm voice. The ship rocked and pitched more violently, knocking the strategic pieces from the map table astray.

Ducking under a table, Jim saw the other officers doing the same. A buzzing sound echoed through the room. It was from his transmitter he left on the table. Making a quick dash to his radio and back, he took a deep breath and read the transmission.

“Is this foreign command officer Patton? We intercepted a transmission that reeks of mutiny! We will be sending transmissions back, exposing you. Yea, go ahead and run, you traitor!”

After reading his message, a chorus of buzzes filled the room, like a sick symphony of quidnuncing. His heart pounded even louder. An explosion thundered in his eardrums and tossed everyone standing to their backs and flipped chairs. The fire warning alarm blared, then he felt the ship drop. Glancing to the back of the room, tongues of flame licked at the red-hot door. Then, the door gave away as a rushing torrent of water flooded the room. Jim heard the startled yelps from the officers and cries for their life. One officer took the speeding door in the back and was flung into the electric panels ahead. He felt the water pulling him through the door on the opposite side of the room.

Using this advantage, he rolled and was on his feet, looking to the right out of the command bridge, he spotted a small fleet of submarines and streams of foaming water streaking across the sea right to the lightly armored hull of the Cortana. Shouts came from the operations quarters as a few more men started running towards him, face twisted with rage. He ducked but received a knee that cut like dagger to his head. Blood came pouring out, momentarily blinding his eyes. When he started seeing again, an officer was pressing him over the railing. A dizzying drop waited below. Then, familiar cries echoed in the metallic labyrinth of the ship. A staccato of automatic weapons fire dropped the men standing by Jim and the surprised officer holding him down receive a savage strike to the head as he stumbled to the death-ridden ground.

“Welcome to the crew.” Muttered the Imperial soldier as he grabbed Jim’s arm and yanked him downstairs to the side of the ship where a surfaced submarine bobbed with the ebb and flow of the ocean. Before beckoning entrance he handed Jim a rag for his face and said, “Nice to have you back.” With a warm salute, he shoved him into the dank confines of the submarine. “You weaselly bastard you,” grinned a sailor as he patted Jim on the back.

---

Aster waited nervously, peering at the armor-clad soldiers on either side of him, each giving him cold gazes from behind their tinted visors. Aster was in a flying drop ship, an open door in front of him showed the watery landscape fly by. According to the on-board compass, they were traveling North, into Tyranian-controlled waters. But he remembered what the traitorous lieutenant said, “I’m sure your brother will give you a warm welcome.” The last person he wanted to see was his lunatic of a brother. But still, he would’ve liked traveling around the world, meeting interesting people, and killing them. An insane laughter erupted from him as he received a vicious blow to the stomach. Too bad, this made him cackle even harder. Doubled over in his fit he rolled out of the plane, made a coo-coo sign and went into a free fall. The Warriors scrambled out and looked over, only to see the madman falling through the clouds and into the sea.

Aster was jolted awake by the feeling of plummeting downward kilometers above the ground and closing in fast. It was just a dream he told himself, trying to regain composure and slow the constant, rapid pounding of his heart. Then another thing jolted, except this time it wasn’t him.

A tiny splashing sound came from the ocean kilometers downward, then a wave of rushing water spread quickly as a beast rose from the water’s mysterious shadows and came upon the land. It wasn’t a Megalith, brandishing a trio of tactical missile launchers on its upper hull, spewing out dozens of warheads and hovering across the surface with alarming speed. The top exterior that was visible to the frightened passengers aboard the ship held an elongated, metallic hull curving smoothly horizontally as it neared the edges; like a beetle.

The behemoth then emitted a rainbow that struck upon the ship. “What the-?“ muttered the Warrior as fusillade of dark projectiles whooshed against the light backdrop of the cascading color, shining brighter than the Sun. A deafening boom rocked the airborne carrier and sent it tumbling to the sea, the projectiles ripping clean through it like a hot knife through butter, chunks of bloodied metal tearing out of the backside. The other battleships turned and started firing trailing arcs into the sky.

We call out to the beasts of the sea to come forth and join us, this night is yours
Because, one day we will all be with you in the black and deep
One day we will all go into the water

Go into the water
live there die there
live there die

We reject our earthly fires
Gone are days of land empires
Lungs transform to take in water
Cloaked in scales we swim and swim on

We are alive, and we'll metamorphasize
And we'll sink as we devolve back to beasts
Our home is down here, and we've known this for years
We must conquer from the sea, we build an army with water steeds

We'll rise, from our depths down below
Release yourselves, drown with me
We will conquer land with water



---
The captain aboard the frigate, SS Cornelia Marie, saw something emerge out of the water off of the starboard bow. Scrambling for his binoculars, he peered at the strange arachnid vessel. It emitted strange, dark projectiles with blinding accuracy and speed. A spectrum strikingly similar to a rainbow came from the bot as well. That made it possible that it was hydro-powered. He then shouted from the command bridge to direct all fire at the unknown vessel. He proceeded to follow it. Then, it plunged downward, a wake of water rushing outwards and lifting the boat at a dizzying angle. Shouts rose from the interior as men were being pinned against walls by gravity and being unfortunate enough to be using the restrooms at that precise moment.

As the boat started to level itself, a deafening crunching sound pierced the din of war. Looking down nervously, he spotted a dark shape moving directly under the SS Cornelia Marie. All of a sudden, his whole world turned sideways as he found himself flying perpendicular to the ship’s hull. Wait a sec, he thought. Looking up, saw the blink of muddy green land and plunged into the sea. Gasping for air, he heard a series of high-pitched thumping sounds, each staccato flaring a monster-sized hole in the tilted hull of the broken ship. A flash of angry red shot upward, as a red lantern of death arced against the smoky sky and plummeted back down. It brought a thunderous splash of steamy water, like a wall. He felt the ocean get warmer as another tsunami erupted behind him. A blood-curdling scream escaped his lips as his skin was being boiled alive in the very sea he meant to protect. Go into the water.

---

Jack hit the dirt hard again as a helicopter whirred overhead. Peering up, he expected it to keep going. Instead, it revolved around him a few times before touching down. Soldiers rushed out of the chopper. They were Tyranian, each carrying a proud patch and touting a heavy machine gun. Jack drew his own and opened fire while strafing to a hummock. Startled shouts erupted from the other soldiers. Pillars of dirt shot up in misty tatters as bullets tore into the dead soil. He hugged the ground and inched to the side to get a better look, the enemy rounds still pounding his position. He saw that the soldiers were now walking backwards back into the helicopter. He couldn’t let them do that. Charging forward, he sprayed deadly accurate salvos of lead which dropped the front two soldiers and peppered the cockpit of the chopper. Jack dove into the open door of the chopper, grabbing two men and tossing them out with relative ease. He then finished them off with a few shots.

Then, he went after the pilot. A flash of light blinded him as his senses vanished within his grasp.

---

Flyker tapped his cigar and watched the cinders float lazily out of the lit butt. “What do you mean Aster’s dead?!”
“I’m sorry sir, but there was an unidentified sea vessel eliminating ships and aircraft along the peninsula.”
“Kill it then.” He said, glaring at the intelligence reporter before him.
“But sir, it disappeared before anyone could strike and definitely isn’t Imperial either.” The reporter explained as calmly as he could.
“Do we not have sonar?” asked Flyker, seething. His prize was gone.
“We do but the vessel obviously has sonar-absorbing equipment. Which is why it wasn’t detected before.”
“Do we still know where it went?” he asked, anger welling up inside him again.
“No, It annihilated the entire fleet! I told you that.”
“Then get the hell out of here!” he shouted, “You make me sick with your useless information!” the reporter scurried away, narrowly dodging a paperweight that Flyker had lobbed at him. It slammed into the wall, its plastic shell cracked as it then bounced on the carpeted floor.

Breathing heavily and then slowly regaining composure, he sat back down on his chair. Reaching for his remote, he turned the monitors on and saw that there had also been mutiny on the SS Cortana and the betraying officer involved was Jim Patton. He stared at the screen in disbelief. Glaxcom was not used to losing. Then he grinned; it was time to go after his next target and fulfill his promise: Seton.

---

Jim paced nervously in his cramped quarters of the submarine. He couldn’t hear much since his eras had popped at two thousand feet, but the flabbergasted expressions of the crewmen spoke for themselves. Actually, there weren’t all men in the vessel. A woman who Jim had just noticed was standing near the optical lenses, consulting with the captain with a worried look on her face. Looking at her reminded him of high school when he had a girl friend. But the war kept separating them. Her family was native to an outer rim, Tyranian controlled planet and had despised Imperial citizens for simply that reason. With the war raging closer and closer to Seton, he had no choice but to fight.

The memories came rushing back. A sudden of comforting heat washed over him as he could almost feel holding hands with his girl friend, Clarisse. They were cuddling on the couch and watching a horror movie. He hadn’t really been paying attention but saw that the killer with a ragged and bloody bunny costume was stomping down the hallway. The camera switched to the frightened girl who was holding her breath, her face sweaty and dirt-streaked. The blinds on the door filtered light through. Suddenly, the pounding stopped.

The girl slowly let exhaled as the camera snapped to the blinds, viewing out into the hallway. There was a stagnant calmness. Then, a flash of gray fur as the demented bunny’s twisted face slammed into the flimsy plastic. With a myriad of scars on it and a knife stuck through the ear hole, the bunny shoved a rusty hook into the narrow opening. A rapid succession of deafening thumps shook the door off of its hinges. It caved in and the girl shook frightfully and dove to the back of the closet: with no way out. Clarisse grasped Jim’s hand and gasped, eyes widened. She then looked up at Jim’s collected composure, smiled and nestled her head into his chest. Jim snapped back to reality and found himself staring straight at the woman next to the captain.

The captain turned away to consult a complicated sea chart and the woman looked up and looked at Jim right in the eyes. He managed a faint smile and turned to saunter back to his quarters. There wasn’t much to do except plod along and not get blown up. He was excited that he was finally returning home after being tortured daily as A Tyranian commander.

A loud rushing sound came from outside, into the murky depths. The lights inside the submarines flickered as the floor of the vessel pitched sharply.
“We have an unknown vessel approaching at…. Wait it’s gone.” An eerie silence filled the sub as it pitched again and started to level out. The old valves and pumps groaned, trying to stabilize the ship and keep it moving.
“What did we get hit with?” asked the captain.
“I don’t know…” he paused and then said, “Is it me or is it getting really hot in here?” Just as he said that the floor shook and a menacing silhouette of a beetle/arachnid hybrid rushed overhead, the submarine started to roll again. Then it, jerked and the crew found themselves slamming into the ceiling, being bombarded by anything that wasn’t bolted down.

The woman was still holding on to an upside-down table onto the ceiling. Jim mustered up his courage and shouted, “Here! Jump here! I’ll catch you.” The woman looked at Jim again and let go. He miscalculated her vertical position and she was falling four feet to the left of him. Grunting with effort, he sailed through the air and caught her while simultaneously rolling so that he took the brunt of the fall. His head crashed into the metal ceiling of the submarine as he got a face full of hair. Spitting to the side, he rolled over, brushed himself off and nodded to the woman politely. She giggled and quietly said, “Thank you.”

The rest of the crew snickered to themselves. But there was a more important task at hand. They had to level the ship back up. The captain barked orders, “Rodney, go with Dave and George to the emergency stabilization chamber and try to get this ship upright. Harold and Karen, go look for that unidentified vessel. Jim, you stay put.” Jim shifted uncomfortably as the whole crew except him and the captain were in a flurry of activity. A guttural rumbling sound rattled the metallic interior of the sub. It was definitely getting warmer. They were out of the frying pan and into the fire.

---
ster was descending at a slower rate than the other soldiers who were either; lifeless, unconscious or flailing, very much alive. His parachute was at full bloom but the sea was still coming up fast. If you had enough speed coming into water, it may very well be a brick wall. The wind whistled past his ears and the explosions boomed in the distance. A shower of shrapnel flew his direction. The fiery cinders tore into his parachute and reduced it to a flaming bonfire of smoldering nylon. Ashes landed in his hair and burned his ears and nose. Burnt fabric smells wafted in his nose and lungs, causing him to cough spasmodically.

A chopper appeared on the horizon, Aster saw this before plunging into the water. His legs buckled and stung, his back slammed into the water as well. Aster also noticed that the ocean was unusually warm. His attention turned back to the rapidly approaching chopper. Was it a about to strafe him? Alarmed he dove under water and began swimming the opposite direction. The whirring grew louder; so loud that it was heard underwater. He bumped blindly into debris and swam for as long as he could. His lungs burned and pleaded for air. Gasping for breath, his head poked the surface. To his horror, the chopper was hovering right above him! An armored figure was at the cockpit, motioning for him to enter and swiveling the helicopter so that the door was close to him. This was dangerous considering how close the chopper was to the rolling waves. Noticing this, the chopper started to pivot around Aster gaining slight altitude.

Aster spat a fountain of salty, warm water and started to swim towards the chopper. Something out of the corner of his eye made him gasp: a red-tipped missile was whistling from a few kilometers away, leaving an orange trail of smoky fire. It was en route for the chopper. Desperate, he waved his arms and pointed at the missile. The rocket was zipping towards them at an alarming rate. The armored soldier continued to stare at Aster, but then glanced towards where Aster was pointing. But it was too late. The armored figure scrambled out and dove out of the door. The missile whined louder and slammed into the helicopter, a ball of searing hot energy roared and launched flaming chunks of metal in all directions. The water beneath it boiled hotter and foamed, yellow streaks of fire lanced out from the explosion and rippled the water intensely. He had already dove underwater to help escape from the heat of the explosion. He then felt a cold hand on his shoulder. Turning, he saw the armored soldier.

“Who are you?”
“I’m a Gladiator. By the way, great job pointing out the missile, asshole.”
The Aster treaded water but let his mouth run agape in awe. A burning anger welled up inside him but it wasn’t from the soldier’s sarcastic reply.
“Hey man, I’m just kidding. Aren’t you Commander Glaxcom? The good one?”
Before he could answer, the soldier then swam using powerful breaststrokes to push and pull himself through the water. Aster hated Flyker: him and his lunatic schemes were going to destroy the whole galaxy. But worst of all, he was related to him. The Gladiator found a kitchen table sized piece of floating metal and swam back, sliding it to Aster.
“You might need this,” he said and began swimming away again, motioning Aster to follow him. A jet thundered overhead. Aster struggled to keep up, using his drift metal to keep afloat. His muscles burned, his lungs aching. Salt water splashed over his drenched clothes. The sun was at full strength, pounding their bodies with heat. After a half an hour of swimming, the ship that used to be gray outline was now visible with malignant details, bristling an array of guns and SAMS carefully picking off aircraft; just like the one the Gladiator flew.

He then saw that they were swimming directly towards the ship that was still afloat, possibly to get onboard. But as they got closer, he realized that it flew the Tyranian symbol on the flagstaff. Aster said, “Why are we going there?”
“So we don’t have to swim in this crap.” He replied.
“But won’t they capture us?”
“Not if they have to deal with me.”
“But what about me?” Aster asked, worried.
“You’re coming with me.”
The soldier then proceeded to draw out a submachine gun; it’s metal dully reflecting light off of it.

The recruit onboard the Tyranian battleship was dark-skinned with rough calluses and a weathered face. But never in all of his years as a deck hand, had he ever seen someone survive a direct hit from a SAM missile and continue swimming. They were even heading towards them! He grinned and took out his sidearm, popping the clip out to check if there were bullets inside. It was fully loaded, the bullets emanating a golden luster. The man was looking forward to getting his first kill. Deciding to get a closer look, he drew his binoculars and focused them on the survivors. His grin disappeared. Gladiators! The armored soldier stopped swimming and was drawing a weapon: Probably a D5k Deutsche.

If the super soldiers were as good as intelligence said they were, he could be picked off even with a sub machine gun and treading water. A pitter-patter of splashes erupted in front of the ship. Turning to run, another staccato of bullets shattered the guardrail and slammed into the far wall. Sprinting, he could almost feel the lead tearing the wall apart and following him. The gunfire stopped as he rounded the corner to catch his breath, glancing out to the water, he could still see the super soldier. If he could spot them then that meant that they could still see us. Especially when you’re dealing with a Gladiator. A yelp escaped him as a bullet whizzed past his ear.

His chest collapsed as the air rushed out of him. It felt like he was being suffocated but no one was there to grasp his neck. A fountain of blood painted the side of the wall as he staggered back, his arms limply trying to stop the rushing flow of blood. Another stream of projectiles blew out his leg and dropped him to the ground as the tough wooden deck splintered in a storm of bloodied fragments. That was the last thing he saw before Death took him.

---

Quincy heard gunfire outside and agonizing screams. Scrambling out the door, he nearly tripped over something. Looking down, he saw a man with shrapnel wedged in his chest and gaping holes in his leg. Gasping, he stumbled over it and noticed that the wooden deck was a jagged pit of broken wood. Pulling his own leg out of the holes, he ran to the bow to search the sea. His heard jerked violently backward as his vision disappeared and his ears heard nothing except a whining sound that replaced his sense of hearing. Clawing weakly at the empty air above him, he felt a sharp cracking sound as his hand was demolished under the speeding hails of bullets. Hunks of fleshy bone and hand rained down on him, leaving a gory stump at his wrist. The rest if his senses faded into nothing. Pain is infinite as the peace on the other side of the brink of death.

---

“Did you get them?”
“Yea… nailed two of them.”
“So do we move in?”
“I’ll go in first and when I say uh… ‘Lunatic!’, You’ll climb up.” He said, grinning when he mentioned the codename.
Aster looked away as his face contorted with anger, struggling to hold in an outburst and containing his rage within the confines of his aching ribs. He hated it how everyone immediately associated him with Flyker. His pulsing heart slowed down as he turned back and nodded, swimming towards the ship.
“Are you okay?” the soldier asked, who was just insensitive only seconds ago.
“Yea… I’m fine.”
“You look mad all of a sudden. You ready to blow chunks outta those suckers?
“I guess.”
“Look, if you’re really that sensitive about your brother, just tell me.” He said and dove underwater, only to appear a few seconds later, a few meager meters away. “Damn, this water is really warm!” he shouted in the distance.

Just as the last words left his mouth, an explosion of roaring jets erupted beneath them as hundreds of black, elongated objects shot out of the water at blistering speed, launching themselves miles into the air, darkening the sky and blotting out the sun. Almost immediately after that, all of the ships in the vicinity opened up with SAM missiles, machine guns and even cannon fire. Yellow bursts of smoke and fire dotted the sky as barrages of bullets and shells took out the tiny objects. Still, there were many left and they started to form into a loose formation that resembled a whistle. Then, they simultaneously closed in on each other to from a well-compacted silhouette of a gun, rising higher and higher up. The barrel glowed a bluish color and let loose a thunderous streak of energy that struck the ship ahead of them like lightening, each chunk exploding into a fireworks display of hurtling metal fragments. The smoldering debris splashed into the water, hissing with the dispelled energy.

He glanced over to where the gladiator used to be. Instead of the proud Gladiator armor, there lie floating a Tyranian Warrior. An inaudible gasp escaped Aster as he swam frantically away. A sharp pain ran up his leg and seemed to drag him down in the ocean’s murky depths. Sputtering for a last gasp of breath, his nose submerged, cutting off valuable oxygen. Straining to keep afloat with solely his arm muscles, he just made it to the surface when he bumped into something hard. Turning, he saw the Warrior.
“I’m not gonna let you go just yet.” He growled and launched Aster high into the air. Bullets whizzed past Aster as he tumbled through the air, then he started seeing the aquatic surface. Bracing himself, the water battered his whole body, shattering his rib cage. He coughed as a burning sensation enflamed his insides. Aster’s vision went blurry as suddenly everything hurt. Breathing, moving and even thinking made him crumple underneath his own pain. He then realized that he was under water. Glancing down, he saw a dark shape lift him up. Sweet air filled his lungs but the bliss was short-lived due to his broken ribs. To his surprise, it was a Gladiator.
Jack staggered under Aster’s weight. Or, at least as much as you could stagger while treading water. Wielding a sub machine gun, he peppered the enemy Warrior ruthlessly, the shells ripping holes in the gleaming exterior. The pain was visible as well as the Warrior feebly clutched the many wounds rupturing his skin. A red hue tainted the surrounding water. Grunting with maximum effort, he swam towards the small speedboat he had found earlier. Dropping Aster down, he left out a strangled cry of agony. His helmet’s X-Ray vision detected four broken ribs and a fractured collar bone. Things were not looking good for the commander. Jack revved up the motor as the boat started chopping through the water. The booming of the artillery slackened a little bit but it was still palpable. Looking up at the sky, he saw the sun starting to drop down, casting a fiery orange glow.

He was heading for the Imperial drop ship that was waiting for him on the shore. It was only a few minutes away, he though, relaxing a little. Then the sea beneath him erupted in a series of ear-shattering booms. The boat pitched violently, throwing Aster into the water. Frantic, he tried to snatch him. But he was too late. As soon as Aster was taken off, the sea calmed again. He slowed the boat to a stuttering stop. Entering a chat channel with the pilot of the drop ship he gloomily said, “Hey, I lost Aster. Whatever was under the water took him and after that they just…. Stopped.”
The pilot cussed and then said, “Alright, stay where you are. I’ll scan the area.”
Jack waited patiently as the drop ship hovered towards him. After a few moments of hovering, the pilot said, “I think we’ve got living things under there. And they’re moving fast!”

---

Aster awoke to a blinding light directly above. It took a minute to get oriented and he figured out that he was laying down, strapped to a table of an unfamiliar texture. It was soft, flexible and morphed to his form but felt very strong and reassuring. And strangely, his pain had subsided but he could barely touch or feel anything. A strange guttural rumbled came from the room next to him. Another rumbled, this one higher pitched. What was going on? Just as he thought that, a door slid open and a figure stepped next to Aster. As the light illuminated its face, it revealed a dark green, lumpy face with three beady eyes, a slithering tongue inside of a circular mouth, lined with barbed teeth like the suction cups on a killer Humboldt squid. The head was egg shaped and dotted with blemishes that gave it a worn appearance. Its companion appeared beside the creature and growled a sharp command that sent the other alien scurrying away. Bending over, it produced a scalpel that gleamed in the artificial light. Aster’s eyes widened at the pernicious instrument of death. Its eyes twinkled with devilishness as it reached over and typed in a code on the life support. Aster felt dizzy once more and fell into a drug-induced euphoria.

---

Jack felt another pang of guilt. He had already lost an important person. And he was not willing to lose another. Growling into the channel he said, “Call OMCOM and tell them that we need to organize a search party to find Aster. If an alien force of this sophistication captured Aster, they no doubt would be able to keep him alive.”
“Roger.” Replied the pilot. Minutes later, he spotted a formation of stethoscopes floating towards him. Submarines. Suddenly, the stethoscopes disappeared as they descended rapidly. The pilot chimed in again, “Hey, at least he’s alive.”

---

The sea had calmed, thankfully and the sub was moving again. Jim relaxed himself by picking up the discarded mess that littered the ship after it had flipped over. The captain had said that they were being assigned on a search mission. The rest of the crew knew nothing more than that. But it seemed too brief and it looked like the captain was withholding information. And it must have been for good reason, after all, the captain was quite experienced. After most of the mess had been cleaned up, he flipped through the channels in the onboard television. Something caught his eye on the galactic news. Seton. His insides felt like they’ve been hollowed out. His head felt dizzy and sick. Flyker had obliterated Seton! That bastard had kept his promise after all.

---

The Emperor of the Earth Empire was startled when he received the information of Aster’s capture and the discovery of extraterrestrial organisms beneath the Tyranian sea of Omnicron. On top of that, he found out that Seton was destroyed by Flyker. Yet, Tyrania controlled Seton. It didn’t make any sense. Only if… his eyes gazed across his office and then froze. Flyker had kept a promise with Jim after he’d been captured and put in charge of Tyranian Foreign Operations. They would have to find Aster but the aliens were too powerful to take on alone and they would need help. Flyker was the only way. He groaned inwardly. There would have to be a very tough negotiation if this were to happen.