The hold was dark and tight, dim red lights reflected off of bulkhead supports and visor screens as Harkins looked from one side to another within the confines of the Orpheus super tank that held himself and the squad of Scythian special forces squad before they reached the deployment zone.
A dozen of them together in SIBAS battlesuits filled the holding bay that was designed to fit twice their number as the Super-Hover tank tore across the ice field or Ereberus three at over 80 kilometers an hour, the first of 10 Orpheus tanks in a loose "V" formation that sped towards the eastern landing pads of their target.
Ereberus three was a desolate and unforgiving ice world that barely held an atmosphere of violently noxious gasses to its surface, orbiting in a binary star cluster - each day time pass of the twin suns sterilized the planets surface of unprotected life forms on the planets ice skin.
As a result of this, the Scythian empire had built a research base under the ice two centuries ago, which had slowly expanded until it was gven stage-1 colony status a little over a decade ago and the research base was rebuilt even deeper into the ice as a small but respectable colony.
That was until, the Immortals arrived.
With a fleet of ships that outnumbered the token planetary defense fleet 50 to 1, they decimated the planets orbital defenses and launched drop ships and mining equipment to the surface and drilled their way down through the ice to the city, took up residence and dared the Scythian empire to retaliate.
So retaliate they did.
Harkins and 120 other Special forces marines made Landfall little over an hour ago via a stealth freighter and continued towards their target - to gain access to the city, disrupt communications and destroy as much as possible ahead of the main invasion force, or at least - that was the plan anyway.
Beyond the confines of the tank, the wind howled, and carried uncaring snow in its gentle grasp.
"E.T.A is less than one minute to target zone! Satellite recon is showing moderate resistance, Marines we are going in hot! Prepare for a smash and grab!" The tank commander yelled over the thunderous sounds on the Orpheus's engines against the howling wind.
"ALL TANK UNITS! PREPARE WEAPONS HOT AND READY TO FIRE, I WANT THESE BASTARDS FRIED AS WE HIT THE RAVINE!" The tank commander then relayed over the group comm system as the SIBAS suited marines released their weapon safety interlocks and counted down the last few heat pounding second before combat.
The first of the ten Orpheus Super-Hover tanks blasted over the last of the ice plain and over the edge of the ravine, in the distance the Imposing comms tower could be seen, a short, fat, gray structure that rested adjacent to the massive hangar bay doors that had been placed into the ice.
Surrounding the tower was a handful of Immortal units and vehicles at roughly company strength, 300 or so infantry in hostile environment suits backed up by a Pathfinder APC and 5 flat-based tanks that the Scythian's had not yet encountered.
The lead Orpheus opened fire with its twin Antimatter Projector Cannons, a technology that had been cobbled together from Scythian Antimatter technology and Gamma Corps rail guns, the turret tracked the lead Immortal tank and projected a molecule wide magnetic cone directly at it, which was then used to project a deadly arc of Antimatter slurry into the tanks hull.
The effect was as deadly as Scythian researchers had ever hoped, as the tanks Armour turned from reflective black Armour plates into a florid blue jelly-like surface that violently exploded in every direction, destroying the tank utterly and showering the nearby infantry in exotic, volatile particles that ripped through environment suits and flesh with disturbing ease.
As each Orpheus broke over the ravines edge, it opened fire and split from formation, carving arcs of destruction into the unprepared Immortal lines, infantry diving for cover as vehicles and debris either exploded or melted around them.
The lead Orpheus halted in the middle of the carnage and opened fire in ever direction with its four secondary laser Gatling cannons as its side door lowered and Harkins with the 11 other marines hit the solid metal of the hangar bay door below them.
Harkins dropped to one knee with trained precision and brought his rifle to bear as the two other marines of his fire group leveled their own weapons over his shoulders.
A target rich environment for 120 marines and 10 Super-Hover tanks - the result was bloody.
Harkins didn't even bother taking his own rifle off of auto fire as he sprayed fire into the Immortal soldiers who dared to present themselves, as did Larrisa, the Medic for his fire group, her own Armour adorned with specialized field surgical equipment and comms packages.
Over his left shoulder - Quaram hefted a massive PAVL MK-II laser, a generation ahead of the MK-I, the beast of a weapon was designed to be carried at the hip and consisted of three MK-I PAVL's on a Gatling system that rotated after each beam fired. His own SIBAS suit had been outfitted with additional Armour plating and servo systems to carry the additional load.
Every shot of the PAVL-II destroyed another chunk of debris, another hiding place, and between the combined fire of the force, the Immortals where quickly and efficiently being annihilated.
Before the last Immortal fell, Scythian marines where moving on their next objective - disable the comms tower and then gain access through the underground city through the hangar bay doors.
As Harkins downed his last Immortal soldier he turned to survey the area or targets, finding nothing but wreckage, debris and wounded.
He looked across to a Scythian marine who had been hit in the arm, screaming in pain, while the SIBAS suit had tourniquet the wound above where he had been shot nothing could stop the deadly radiation from Ereberus's twin suns from decaying every cell in his body.
He had been one of the newest to the unit, less than five years in the service - the Field commander had filed him as KIA before he finished screaming, an his body decomposed and turned to ash inside his own Armor.
Looking across the ice, the same happened to every corpse in the field, stage-1 of the mission was a succeed or die scenario - because if you failed, there would be nothing left to return home except empty husks and the whispers of the dead.
Harkins turned and huffed as he followed Larrisa taking point, the fire group quickly and silently moving to its next objective.
Of the 120 Scythian Marines, the 98 that remained moved towards the comms tower as the Orpheus contingent spread back into the distance, they had their own set of targets to move onto - and the Marines had to concentrate on their own. As Larrisa, Harkins and Quaram moved towards the tower, they could already see the closest of the three man teams using breaching explosives to blast away the thick titanium doors and disappear inside.
It had been obvious long before the Marines had been sent in via stealthed freighter that the Immortals had not only wiped out the defense forces, but had then set up shop within the former Scythian facilities, comms towers now flowed with encrypted Immortal data channels, Scythian bases now filled with Immortal troops. The core of the operation was to disrupt, deceive and destroy. After his team wiped out this tower and gained acce-
The explosion had ripped a perfect sphere of vacuum out of the side of the tower as screams filled the TEAMCOMM radio channels, three men down and another six injured.
Before Harkins team even reached the stub of a building, another two blasts could be felt as low rumbles through the ice.
More screams, more dead, more pain.
One voice over-rode the TEAMCOMM channel, the Marine units commander, a lifer-marine by the name of Tarrask.
"Attention all teams, it looks like the Immortals left us some parting gifts, it looks like they left Black Hole grenades with proximity fuses throughout the building - proceed with caution, and a free drink from me to anyone who manages to diffuse and bring one back in one piece. Now move out!"
With this order, and a renewed cautiousness to the mission, Harkins, Larrisa and Quaram reached the outer wall and moved slowly towards the wrought-open blast door, and then turned inwards towards the darkness.
Across the vast field of ice, a solitary figure sat un-noticed by all - quite a feat considering that he was wearing a standard Immortal environment and in front of a two meter long anti-tank rifle.
Loveless long ago became accustomed to situations like this, it was all part of his gift, after he had discovered long ago that he had the ability to remove his presence from the minds of others. It was this gift that allowed him to hunt the hyper-violent predators of his barely bronze age home-world as a teenager, and then hunt the Immortal soldiers that came from the skies to harvest the vast forests and turn his world into a hunting preserve.
And then the Immortals themselves turned up, the enemies that died over and over again at his hands, until he couldn't run or hunt any more - and on that day he died . . .
. . . and came back.
Now an Immortal elite himself - he had been returned with an offer and a promise - he could hunt anything, anywhere and any way he wanted - provided he also put his gifts towards the Emperors will, taking out enemy leaders and politicians, and in this case, enemy targets of opportunity.
With his psychic abilities shielding him from the minds of others - the squadron of 10 Orpheus Super-Hover Tanks pounded over the horizon, their Antimatter fueled induction engines allowed them to blast over the edge of the ice field at extreme speeds.
"And now, time to get to work . . . " Loveless thought to himself grimly as he drew sights on the first tank.
With a sharp yank of the trigger, the Immortal anti-tank rifle let rip with a specially designed black hole shell. Barely bigger than a mans thumb, the shell collided with the Orpheus leading the charge and detonated - creating a fairly impressive gravity well where the front of the mighty tank used to be.
In a split second the pilot and gunner of the mighty tank where crushed inwards, along with several inches of Armour plating, control panels and circuit boards. A moment later the black hole destabilized - causing a wild graviton blast that imploded the rest of the doomed tank, sending chunks of titanium and flame in every direction.
With a sharp yank of the receiver, Loveless loaded the next shell and prepared to fire on the scattered and confused tanks in the aftermath.
Darkness entombed them.
The facilities power had been knocked offline early in the landfall - as Harkins boots hit the ice with 120 other marines the communication centres power had been taken out by a rouge blast from a Pathfinder APC and had plunged the entire base into darkness - a darkness which the Scythian marines now steadily decended into.
Only the built in night vision functionality of their SIBAS powered armour stopped the darkness from becoming overpowering as Harkins, Larissa and Quaram moved down tight, claustrophobic tunnels and walkways towards the primary antenna array.
The base was also quiet - too quiet considering that a full Immortal contingent force had recently occupied these corridors and halls . . . and as Harkins progressed, all he could he think was that there really should have been a sign of life by now-
He had turned the corner rifle raised and ready to fire - but his train of thought had been distracted and he had allowed himself to be a split second target.
He backed up and around the corner with his rifle firing off snap-rounds in the dark as Immortal flachette rounds bounced and clanged off of his armour.
"Unknown number of targets, most likely regular troops but dug in . . . Quaram, time to send in the bugger"
Quaram nodded inside his own armour as he placed his P.A.V.L MK-II to the ground and unclipped a large backpack style container from his SIBAS suit. After pressing in an indented panel, the whole box came to life as short wisps of steam and particles ejected from its sides and a small digital panel revealed itself.
After a few small taps - the sides of the box unfolded into 8 mechanical legs around a roughly rectangular torso with a single green eye, the underside then unclipped into a smaller version of a Scythian Laser Carbine. The machine jittered from left to right as its AI finally came online, and then photo-reactive panels followed, rendering the machine invisible to the naked eye.
A small green status light flickered up on the three squad members holographic screens followed by a picture in picture in the upper right area of their views as the drone skittered its way up the wall and proceeded down the corridor ahead of them by latching onto the ceiling and using the pipe work above them as a tentative handhold for its advance.
Eventually the bugger had managed to position itself over the five Immortal troopers at the end of the corridor, faceless individuals who where most likely as deep in their own sweat as Harkins; desperately attempting to set up some form of tripod mounted heavy cannon ahead of the advancing Scythian marines.
“Looks like one of those heavy Flachette launchers O.N.I briefed us about, I say we bug ‘em.” Quaram suggested with a snide grin.
“Just gimme the cue and we’ll double time ‘em’” Larissa said as she hefted up her rifle to her shoulder.
“Bugger – Select highest threat target and arm weapon”
Silently above the Immortal soldiers, the drone shifted its legs around and aimed its laser carbine directly between the eyes of the unwitting soldier.
“Bugger – KILL!”
The drone let rip instantly, causing the soldier to suddenly end at the middle of the neck. As his corpse hit the ground, Harkins and Larissa turned the corner with their rifles raised and fired down the corridor, causing the remaining four Immortals to dive for cover and scrabble out of the way.
Unfortunately for another soldier – the Bugger acquired its next target and opened fire on an Immortal soldier who caught on his belly while trying to escape.
“Drone requesting permission to track and engage targets.” The Bugger questioned in blank monotone over the squad radio channel.
“Bugger, remain stationary – switch to guard mode.” Quaram replied as he hefted up his P.A.V.L MK-II and proceeded around the corner.
“Lets see if we can tag this thing for retrieval – O.N.I would love some extra Immortal toys.” Quaram stated as he approached the middle of the corridor.
“Careful, look out for booby traps” Harkins muttered under his breath as he approached carefully down the corridor with his rifle still raised in hesitation with Larissa a step behind.
“This bloody Immortal shit – doesn’t look like much but it sure backs a fucking punch . . . “ Quaram said as he approached the half-deployed weapon.
“Doesn’t matter anyhow – lets just make sure it isn’t loaded and tag it for the R+D boys” he muttered, finishing his own sentence as he reached down to the SIBAS armours utility belt and retrieved a small automated transmitter and lent down to set it next to the Immortal cannon.
Within a split second, all three members of the squad received a radiation warning and shifted back.
“FUCK! IMMORTAL TRAP, EYES OPEN” Harkins yelled across the open channel.
“Quaram, get back here!” Larissa yelled as she turned to face behind the group.
“Fuck, fuck, FUCK! Where is the bomb?!” Quaram yelled as the cannon behind him started to bend and warp.
In that split second a hidden black hole explosive within the base of the cannon activated and annihilated everything within a 5 meter radius of itself, bulkhead doors and floors disappeared into a pinprick sized black hole that devoured itself before it could fully form.
Taking Quaram’s left leg with it.
Kerrus was not going to lie to himself, he was scared shitless.
The hold of the vast alien box that currently carried himself and 4999 (or thereabouts) other Genoan soldiers of the Varcampth royal family was tight, dark and had far too little air in it for his liking.
But it was this or be outside.
With the Vacuum and minus 250 degree temperatures that would cause skin to freeze and explode as the pressure pulled his lungs out through his throat in a bloody shredded mess.
These Scythians scared the living shit out of him.
He could only wish, over and over again that he could somehow travel back a year into the past and stop the Genoan first contact from ever happening, back into a time when the worst war that Kerrus would ever have to worry about was the 300 year old cold war between the Varcampth, Maar and Tylian royal families and the possibility of being forced into deployment on the edge of the uncharted continents.
Now he had been ripped from his vast homeworld of seas, archepeligoes and endless sky into the depths of space due to the terms of alliance presented by the vacuum dwellers.
He had been far from the Capitol of Varcampth as the humongous red ships descended from the sky and the Scythians had set foot on the prestigious world of Genoad. They came offering both wondrous technologies and a terrible promise.
They could offer free, cheap and clean power by something they called Antimatter, endless medical technologies, star maps and the interstellar drives needed to travel them along with hoardes of other technologies – on the grounds that the Genoan Royal families ended their 300 year long cold war and joined into an alliance with the Scythian Empire against an enemy far larger and far more dangerous than Genoan minds had ever considered . .
The Scythian holograms showed image after image of battlefields, before during and after as the vast armies of the Immortal Empire decimated cities, killed millions and enslaved others – throwing their mortal soldiers like meat into a grinder until everything before them was levelled and no hope of retaliation remained.
All of this was nothing however, compared to the first space battle the Genoan Royals had the treat of being shown. Even the great Anti-gravity propelled flying battleships that they had been keeping in reserve if the world ever went to war where nothing compared to the space borne behemoths that lobbed city levelling firepower at each other as if it was nothing more than confetti.
Then came the final slap of reality to our tiny world – the map of the galaxy around us as world after world had been disappearing for almost a year.
Of course, more proof was required – but eventually the Genoan Royals finally ended their cold war and signed entire legions of troops onto the roll that could be called upon if the Scythian Empire ever needed use of them until we could ever provide their own spacecraft.
So here Kerrus stood – in the hold of a Scythian Battleship by the name of the “Solaris” as they prepared to cycle what they called the “FTL drive” for a “Jump” and all he could feel was fear through to his very bones as the world around him warped and spread wide before colours swallowed his vision.
“Sir, our first jump is complete – synchronising our clocks with the rest of the battle groups and preparing for our next jump to the primary rendezvous point.” Safros reported to the captain across the bridge of the Solaris.
It had been almost a year now since the Solaris had its encounter what was now being called the “Unliving nightmares” and the events that had lead to the Britannian empire unofficially declaring war on the Scythian Empire as the galaxy itself seemed to be giving way under the fires of war.
The Immortals had continued to gather steam since that unfortunately fateful day as more and more worlds came under attack, empires turned on each other and chaos had almost absorbed half of the southern arm of the galaxy.
Now the Solaris, with its sister battleship the Tempestura and their sub battle group, including a new Gladiator class carrier, a dozen Rigel Kentaurus class Destroyers and 30 Savager frigates where cruising the darkness of interstellar space en-route to what was only being referred to as “Rally point prime” through orders from the Admiralty in what must have been the largest call to arms since the war had begun to rear its ugly head.
Safros didn’t know much – he had been beginning to develop the habit of selective hearing and being in the wrong place in the right time had managed to wrangle him away from seeing the larger galactic picture of destruction, top secret motions that seemed to drag his world with it, KINGUNDERTHEMOUNTAIN and a dozen other things he wished he could cleanse from passing his ears so he could revert back to being in a simple existence.
Unfortunately – he hadn’t quite gotten away from it this time. Rally point prime was in the process of acquiring every space worthy ship in the entire southern quadrant, one of the five quadrants that made up Scythian space – apparently Lord Shadowscythe himself was leading from his personal Emperor class Super-Battleship the Mantorok had arrived all the way from Rigel Kentaurus with the Scythian Office of Naval Intelligence devoting dozens of assets from hidden, secret or outright denied projects from this side of the galaxy.
A small beep across his screen expanded into numbers and raw data from the ships in the fleet.
“Sir – all clocks are synchronised and FTL drives are ready to go. Jump on your order.” Safros reported once more.
“Thank you Safros – all ships, jump to Rally Point Prime in one minute” The captain replied as he shifted forward in his command chair.
The Solaris, Tempestura and their fleet emerged in a flash of radiation at the very edge Rally Point Prime to be greeted with an instant flash authorisation of command codes, IFF transponder responses, AI handshakes, data packet exchanges and dozens of other forms of wavelength to identify themselves with.
In the distance almost 2000 ships of varying class, from Frigates, destroyers, cruisers, carriers and battleships organised themselves into a loose arcing formation around the edge of a long abandoned asteroid mining base, or at least – what appeared to be an abandoned base from a distance.
Today it was however, a hive of military activity.
The entire front of the base opened into a vast hangar that held four battleships ready to launch within its maw, with another four behind those in the final stages of assembly, the usually pot-marked outer skin of the vast rock now opened in 300 strategic points to reveal the now almost iconic Scythian double mounted laser turrets used on their Monarch class battleships, along with almost a thousand smaller laser cannons designed to destroy smaller missiles and fighter craft.
A short distance from the hive, sat the Mantorok in the rough “centre” of the battle group a dozens of other battleship class vessels arranged themselves in a rough globe of firepower around the capitol ship.
On the bridge of the capitol ship, one figure stood in the background of a handful of men and women, the highest members of Navy personnel before the Office of Naval Intelligence and then the Emperor himself, the Scythian High Admiralty.
“Why the hell would the Immortals want this goddamn rock anyway? It’s nothing more than a class 1 colony world that happened to have a meteorological research base on it” Admiral Stansforth stated allowed while frowning at the central hologram station, watching semi transparent Immortal ships drop out of hyperspace and start destroying orbiting Scythian vessels before dropping troops directly to the ground.
“Because the damn thing is also classed as a case word Orange I presume.” A female Admiral replied. Admiral Mera was old and frail with gray tendering hair and a razor sharp stare, which she shot backwards to the figure behind them.
“Ugh, not that KINGUNDERTHEMOUNTAIN shite again?” A third, portly bearded Admiral, Ithensi replied.
“Ugh, with all the anomalies, relics and Scythia only knows what other horrors that O.N.I finds hiding out in the black you’d think they’d let us in on the game, we’re only supposed to be second to the Emperor himself.” Admiral Mera added to the room, obviously embittered by the secrets being kept from her.
The figure behind the group finally stepped forward, his features still hidden by the low lighting and the obscure glow of the holographic display.
“Mera is right, this world is classified by O.N.I as being under KINGUNDERTHEMOUNTAIN jurisdiction – AI Overide delta seven, Case word Orange.” The figure spoke softly and carefully to the Admiralty members.
The holographic suddenly widened and filled in with previously unseen details, a far larger complex appeared underneath the single city on the planets surface, spreading out corridor complexes like a spiders web for miles under the surface of the ice.
“What the holy fuck is this?” The Admiral Stansforth asked aloud as his eyebrows curled up in frustration.
“Two years ago, we discovered this . . . under the ice.”
The hologram expanded to reveal a rough sphere shaped object that had hundreds of smaller spires and tendrils expanding outwards from its centre mass into the ice around it and formed around a considerably smaller square installation that extended itself into a perfectly round shaft deep into the core of the planet.
“What . . . . is that” The second Admiral asked aloud, turning to face the figure once more.
“That, is a KINGUNDERTHEMOUNTAIN class artefact – its purpose in itself remains unclear, but we know more than enough about its defences to put a good picture together. That shaft is some form of advanced geothermal power generator, not gathering power from the magma layers below the ice and rock, but directly from the planets core, combining heat, pressure and gravity itself into some form of massive battery that is, currently dormant.”
The figure then gestured quickly to the smaller square installation “We can only assume this smaller facility is some form of combined power transformer and battery, feeding power into the main object.”
He paused for a moment to let out a short breath “As for the main object itself, it is protected by some form of defence mechanism we have never seen, resistant to even apocalypse grade weaponry – it blocks all forms of analysis and even bends light itself.”
“How the hell can you know all that?” Admiral Ithensi questioned.
“Because for the last few years we’ve been testing every weapon we have on it, including a Gamma-three class antimatter bomb.”
“Holy shit . . . “
“As far as we can tell, it can resist everything up to direct Anti-matter contact, which the object can heal just as quickly as the Anti-matter can annihilate – that’s how we managed to map the whole outer shell of the object, it is currently sat inside its own blast crater; miles under the ice.” The figure finished.
A short bleep interrupted the silence of the room, followed by a far younger voice over the ships intercom.
“Admiral Mera, the fifth fleet has arrived in formation – we will be ready for FTL jump on your mark” The voice announced to the room.
“Very well Captain M’tano, prepare the fleets FTL clock for fifteen minutes and go to Alert Status One, I’ll be on the bridge shortly” Admiral Mera replied.
With the conversation at an end, the three Admirals turned and departed from the room, leaving the lone Lord Shadowscythe to ponder the coming events.
Quaram’s leg pumped blood out into the open from the bloody twisted stump that used to be his left leg above the knee.
Larissa struggled as she tore the medical kit from her side satchel and roughly threw it open to her side, reaching as fast as she could for a laser cauterizer and bio foam canisters.
“FUCK!FUCK!FUCK!” Quaram exclaimed between yelling through the pain as his leg continued to spread claret across steel metal grating “IF I START TO BURN, YOU FUCKING SHOOT ME FIRST! FUCKING SHOOT ME!”
“Keep your fucking shit together Q!” Larissa yelled back in anger as she struggled to keep the laser cauterizer in line with the stump of flesh, bone and metal to seal the blood vessels together “We’re inside! Only direct sunlight fries us, and that may be the only thing keeping you alive, Harkins! Pass me the Bio foam!”
Harkins fumbled to drop his rifle and pass the can of bio foam, tearing off the protective plastic cover as Larissa reached across.
“THE FUCK DO YOU MEAN?” Quaram yelled back, caught too far in his own agony to realize the truth.
“This rock sterilizes itself and the Immortals use Black Hole bombs, this is probably the cleanest wound in battlefield history, now hold still” Larissa stated, far calmer than before as the cauterizer finished its delicate work of sealing the wound closed, she then turned to Harkins and took the can of bio foam, spraying a slim layer of yellow foam to seal the wound from the air, before layering several more layers to seal the entire area from the outside world.
“Q, stay with me – I’m overriding your suit controls to dose you with Morpha” Larissa stated as she hooked her SIBAS suit controls into his own and pumped three times the regular dose of pain medication into his bloodstream.
Quarams vision blended and faltered as the world around him stopped being colours and shapes and simply became a blur of Morpha and lines.
“Larrissa, will you marry me?” He asked aloud, grinning like a man possessed.
“Maybe next time Q” she said with a sigh as she moved back, monitoring his vital signs on her holographic monitor screens.
She then turned to Harkins and opened a private channel “I don’t know how the Bio foam will hold outside on the ice, but he’ll live through this without infection, if he carry’s on being this lucky then he should be able to get a decent prosthetic to replace it.”
“What about the mission? Someone needs to stay here with Q, and someone needs to warn the other teams about the presents our little friends have left for us.”
“You head out to find the others, I’ll stay here with Q” Larissa replied, leaving her laser rifle on the floor and hefting Quaram’s P.A.V.L MK-II to hip height.
“Keep safe you two.” Harkins said in almost a whisper as he lifted his rifle to his shoulder and proceeded down the darkened corridor beyond the former Immortal soldiers.
Out on the distant ice, another Orpheus tank exploded under the force of a black hole shell.
These Scythians however, where proving just how quick they could learn yet again.
Loveless had managed to gut three of the Super Hover Tanks out right, and disable another one before they had tracked the direction of fire back to his psionically hidden spot upon the ice.
However, their Antimatter Projector cannons needed a target to track before they could fire to avoid dumb fire friendly fire incidents – but that didn’t stop the four laser Gatling cannons on each tanks from spreading lines of fire back and forth around his position.
Satisfied with the damage he had managed to cause, he pressed a small button in the side of the Anti tank rifle and prepared to move on.
With a series of clinks, clacks and sharp motions the barrel of the two metre gun began to withdraw back into itself, folding inwards and outwards like a flower going in and out of bloom as the entire gun shrank in size and weight – eventually becoming a small black stubbed cannon only lightly larger and heavier than a regular issue Immortal submachine gun.
Loveless never did stop marvelling at what those bastards in Dial’o’death kept pulling out of their backsides for when they needed it.
With the stub-nosed cannon in hand he withdrew backwards out of the line of fire, and then vanished into the ice.
Deep beneath the ice, something awoke.
Deep beneath the ice, something let loose the first rancid breath of countless millennia.
Deep beneath the ice, something skittered.
Harkins move cautiously from hiding place to hiding place, making sure to cover his angles of fire as he attempted to reach any other Scythian marines still on his floor of the communications tower.
He turned a corner to find that the floor in front of him simply disappeared, along with larger portions of the walls around him, and the ceiling above.
In a perfect sphere.
A perfect 5-meter sphere.
He let out another sigh of frustration and anger, this was the only remains of another three-man team that had found another booby trapped weapon and paid the price for it.
He turned back on himself to try and find another route around the hole that blocked his path.
Into the iron sights of an Immortal Flachette rifle, and the Immortal soldier wielding it.
“Don’t move . . . Scythian scum” The Immortal grunted through his jet back facemask as the end of his rifle shook ever so slightly from side to side.
At range, his SIBAS armour would have been more than enough to deflect Immortal flachette rounds, well – rifle rounds at the least, but this close – his entire front plate would be turned into swiss cheese, shortly before his face joined it.
The soldier shoved the rifle closer into the front armour of the SIBAS suit forcing Harkins to back up a little, as the soldier sneered inside his faceless Immortal armour.
“Fucking Scythians, thinking you have a chance . . . just get on your knees and I’ll make this qui-“
The Immortal soldier never had the chance to finish his sentence as the front of his faceplate warmed and then melted from the inside outwards, a moment later the rifle dropped to the floor, followed by the corpse of the trooper.
Now with an added ventilation hole in the back of his skull.
Harkins looked back up to try and trace the source of the shot, only to see the briefest IFF transponder response of the Bugger – somewhere up ahead of him in the distance of the corridor, beyond the blast radius.
“Well, at least I’m not totally alone . . . “ He sighed to himself as he hefted around to find an alternate route to the communications tower command centre.
Three floors down, four floors up and several dozen side corridors later Harkins was finally close to what was supposed to be his objective zone, a set of imposing blast doors set into the wall of a T-junction that intersected this floor of the base.
“Shit, perfect place for an ambush . . . “ Harkins whispered to himself as he surveyed the three paths around him.
“FTL Clock at three minutes and counting” A deck hand announced to Captain M’tano and Admiral Mera on the deck of the Mantorok.
“Very well lieutenant; is the fleet at alert status one?” Captain M’tano replied.
“The fleet is reporting all laser weapons hot and ready to fire, all Antimatter missiles are awaiting activation keys from Admiral Mera, combat AI’s with ECM and ECCM are alert and waiting, all troops are armed and ready for drop – the fleet is at alert status one.” The lieutenant listed off of his screen.
“Very well, lets just hope that those marines have knocked out the Immortal communications or this is going to get very painful for us indeed.”
“FTL clock at two minutes and counting” The deck hand announced to the bridge.
Harkins still shifted uncomfortably in the dark, he had pushed his body as tight into the door as he could, and reached out with his rifle arm to offhand any targets of opportunity as he reached for the door panel with his left hand.
His hand found grasp on the panel as he attempted to jam the button and open the door, but he was answered with stalwart silence from the door controls as they refused to open the bulkhead.
As he looked ahead he saw glimpses of movement in the distant forward corridor, troops approaching his position, and gunfire following them.
“Ahh, crap.” He exclaimed as he pulled away from the door and attempted to disappear into the line of shadows.
“FTL clock is at one minute, prepare for combat jump!” The deck hand announced as the lights on the bridge dimmed in favour of holographic displays and the burning engines of the ships around them.
As Harkins disappeared into the shadows he saw the troops approaching, Scythian marines in now battered and scorched SIBAS armour, one taking the lead with an offhand laser carbine pistol, the next dragging another marine by the shoulders – who was firing into the dark with his own rifle. The last two hefted a P.A.V.L MK-II each behind the group, occasionally turning to fire a brief blast of almost holy light into the darkness before turning and running once more.
“Get the wounded to the side, I’ll help cover you to the door!” Harkins yelled to the incoming group over an open channel as he emerged from the darkness, rifle held to his shoulder and fired shots of opportunity over and around the group.
“Glad to see a friendly face – cover us! Lee! Shiela – get those P.A.V.L’s and blow the fucking door apart!” The lead marine yelled as he turned on the spot and joined Harkins in his laying down of covering fire.
Just up ahead, Lee and Shiela brought their P.A.V.L’s to bear and opened fire on the door in six consecutive blasts – each one weakening the door as it slagged into melted metal and noxious fumes, before putting high speed into catching up with the rest of the group.
Flachette rounds screamed like banshee’s past Harkins armour, the Immortals favourite anti-infantry weapons – a semi computerised cross between an assault rifle and a shotgun with intelligent shells, firing like an assault rifle it flew screaming shells across the distance which then split into a concentrated shotgun blast exactly 1 meter before hitting their target, guaranteed kills on unarmoured infantry.
As the Marines bolted into the communications room, Harkins kept in line with the un-named leader and continued to fire into the dark.
“LORENZA! Cut off the comms! Everyone else – battery formation!” The leader yelled as he dropped to one knee.
Harkins followed suit as the familiar sight of a P.A.V.L MK-II levelled over His and the leaders shoulders.
“On my mark – unleash hell.” The leader said aloud with a sneer.
The first of the Immortal troops crossed from the dark into the light – another regular trooper, one of untold trillions under their empires rule.
“The hell?” Harkins exclaimed.
“There where about fifty of them holed up in the causeways waiting for us to find them, all their weapons are booby trapped and they have cut off comms to the outside world, fucking shite eaters.” Lee stated, finger itching over the trigger.
“The console is out of commission!” Lorenza yelled to himself as a fizzing sensation filled the groups comm. Channels and then dissipated.
“Right, try this on for size you bastards! OPEN FIRE!” The leader yelled as he yanked on the trigger hard.
“FTL Jump in three . . . two . . . one . . . “ The deck hand continued as space stretched both back and forth around Admiral Mera, Captain M’tano and the rest of the crew of the Mantorok, and in turn the 2000 ships around them disappeared from reality.
And then returned.
“Give me a situation report immediately – “ Admiral Mera began as the ship was suddenly struck by a blast before human or AI could comprehend that the transition from an FTL jump was complete.
The stars around them filled with Scythian vessels, Immortal plasma and return laser fire.
“We have emerged Several million kilometres closer to our intended target, Immortal fleet is in closer to danger close proximity and engaging!” the Deck hand replied.
As space continued to convulse around the Scythian fleet – hundreds of ships began to engage one another in every form imaginable. Scythian Lasers crossed paths with Immortal plasma lances and bolts as blood red starships crossed fire with black and silver behemoths, fighters where launched and the stars filled with death.
Admiral Mera watched as the Juggernaught, one of the first Monarch class battleships of the ninth fleet was gutted as it emerged from FTL – with a plasma bolt already filling the space it emerged into, the blast expanded exponentially inside its own shield until that too collapsed – and the ship became a floating hulk within moments.
Up ahead – Savager frigates unleashed their primary beam cannons onto Immortal frigates and cruisers, slashing them to pieces with capitol ship fire power designed to punch far above the class of the ship that wielded it.
Immortal ships replied in turn with Plasma lances, thick purple beams of raw death that matched shield harmonics with the ships they where targeted at and then devoured them atom by atom.
HIVE shells flew from Immortal anti-fighter cannons, filling space with impossibly fast hot lead and Scythian laser cannons swatted Immortal fighters out in turn – dog fights had begun all the way through the battle as the Capitol ships exchanged fire power capable of levelling cities.
“What do we have out there?” Admiral Mera asked as she took in the opening moments of the carnage.
“Ma’am – it looks like five standard Immortal incursion groups working together – five dreadnaught class vessels on par with the Mantorok, between 7 and 900 battleship class vessels and somewhere in the region of 500 supporting craft, ranging from gunboats to cruisers of varying type and tonnage.” The deck hand replied as he was still taking in the sheer numbers on his screen.
“Looks like they deployed quite a force” Captain M’tano stated, without taking his eyes off the display.
“This is just a drip in the ocean compared to their true fleets” Another voice behind them stated.
Admiral Mera and Captain M’tano turned to see Lord Shadowscythe stood on the bridge himself, surveying the carnage.
“Don’t let them divide us – or they will rip us apart piecemeal – keep the fleet together and take out targets of opportunity as we head towards the objective and deliver the package.” He stated, before he then turned and headed out of the room.
Admiral Mera could only fume in contempt as she turned back to face the bridge “Consider it an order from me, keep the fleet together, head towards the objective”
“Ma’am” Captain M’tano replied as the opening stages of the battle erupted into a full-blown war . . .
In the communications room however, the battle was coming too an end.
After taking seven fatalities they found cover towards one side of the distant corridor and returned fire – returning a fatality of their own and blasting through Shiela’s SIBAS armour – destroying its front plate and turning her head into a pile of crimson and slush inside her armour.
Harkins continued to fire even as the Immortals decided to bolt to where they had come from, and finally returned into the darkness.
“Lorenzo, Lee – cover that door” The leader stated aloud as he turned back to face his injured squad member.
“And who are you soldier?” He then asked to Harkins.
“Harkins, Royal Marine Sergeant.” He replied.
“Well fuck me sideways, we have a royal marine in our presence . . . Marine Javer, Regular infantry . . .” Javer replied “At least with you, we got part of the way through this fucking mess – but we have more dead than injured now, and we still need too move onto the next objective.”
“I’ve got wounded too – one of my men had his leg taken off by a black hole bomb.” Harkins said softly into the silence.
Teb 51 yanked hard on the control stick as his Magog fighter fulled back against the onslaught of laser fire from a picket group of Savager frigates, as the rest of his flight wing burned he had to hand it to these Scythians – when they finally put a fight together they fought tooth and nail until the end.
He pulled up and around the rapidly expanding cluster fuck that was the main battle – watching as battleships exchanged raw fire into one anothers lines – wishing he could be anywhere but here.
From above, another wing of Magog fighters roared down past his left and into the fire storm and opened fire onto a Kentaurus class destroyer – ripping off huge chunks of armour plating and venting its insides into space. He pushed the engines down hard and rampaged in behind the group, firing off shots of opportunity as flame and debris passed him by.
Around him, Immortal assault carriers launched over a thousand fellow fighters to join his fight, and then opened fire onto Scythian Monarch class battleships with a vicious fervour.
The skies burned apart around him.
“All Genoan forces, 3 minutes until landfall! I repeat! 3 minutes until landfall!” The voice echoed through the bay as the last troops around Kerrus where ferried into the hastily semi-painted Carnivore dropships the Scythian navy had given the Genoan troops for the drop.
Around him, alarms blared and red warning lights flashed as the Solaris with over 50 other battleships pulled away from the main battle clusters to protect over 100 Gladiator carriers that where preparing to make the single largest landfall in Scythian history.
“All Genoan forces, 1 minute until landfall! I repeat! 1 minute until landfall!” The voice echoed again, Kerrus could feel nothing but raw fear as the side walls of the launch bay slid downwards and disappeared from his view. Only a few hundred kilometres away the main battle was making its way towards them, and below – the lifeless rock he was soon to risk his life on loomed.
“All Genoan forces – LAU-“ The voice was cut off half way through – as a rouge Immortal Ion blast thundered into the bay, ripping ten Carnivore drop ships to shreds before they could even blast their engines.
“FUCK IT! GUN THE ENGINES NOW!” A voice yelled through an open channel and the drop ship lurched away from the rapidly expanding fireball that devoured its way through flesh and metal alike.
Kerrus gripped harder on the contact rail as the Solaris tumbled from his vision, first beside – then above, then disappearing from view as hundreds of sparkling lights and white trails burst like vines from the capitol ships above and joined his decent to the planet below.
Then the beauty faded – the shaking began, and his world started to boil.
As the drop ship hit the atmosphere of the planet – heat lines streaked across his vision and the roar of wind could be heard through the bay as 50 men crumbled together in a space meant for 40, some desperate to see the world that awaited, others creased their eyes closed and uttered prayers against the fires.
“Immortals have started to fire on us from above and below, starting evasive manoeuvres!” The pilot yelled over the comm. Channel as the dropship pulled hard to the right and started to drop at a sickening 60 degree angle both downwards and sideways, with the engines straining just enough to keep the craft from breaking into a spiral and bursting into flame.
For a split second the air boiled and screamed as a bright yellow bolt of an Ion cannon blast rampaged past them, ground defences taking shots of opportunity at the first wave.
Kerrus pulled himself as close to the window as he could as he saw another dropship pull along side his own, followed by another three, then several hundred red streaks appeared in the distance. On either side – Scythian and Genoan troops alike where dropping into hell.
Then hell bit back.
The first drop ship he saw disappeared in a flash as a purple lightning bolt stampeded upwards from the surface and through the tumbling ships starboard engine, ripping the entire unit clean from its mounting – the craft jolted suddenly as if held in the air, before bursting into flame and shrapnel.
50 men turned into a screaming, falling pyre before his eyes.
Another two drop ships behind the first started to tumble as the burning remains dragged upwards into their engine turbines, causing them to choke and splutter. The first dragged in the air until it became caught in it’s own turbulence and started to charbroil in its jet stream, the second stopped in the air and exploded violently, sending more wreckage into the sky.
The flames around the drop ship started to dither and fade as the cloud layer formed around him, below he could see naught but endless purple and white ice floes and glaciers, their drop site was several kilometres north east of their entry zone, a small surface settlement that would allow mass transit into the city that laid deep below the ice, a death trap flooded with Immortal ground forces laying in wait.
Then the serene image below was broken as stattacco bursts of anti-aircraft fire rushed upwards from the surface, yellow pulses of Ion cannon fire mixed with arcs of purple lightning from ground based plasma batteries and the scream of flachette repeaters filled the skies with bursts of death as the surface rushed ever closer with each passing second, threatening to devour them.
Kerrus watched as the ground grew ever closer and the Carnivore kept its assault decent pattern, keeping at flat as a rock on re-entry until the last minute – followed by levelling out and pounding Immortal ground forces with fire and then hitting the dirt itself. He watched as many of the drop ships simply crashed into the ice itself, and others exploded before they even made it this far.
Then the sides of the Carnivore fell away as the explosive bolts holding them to the craft detonated, and white ice filled his vision, filled with black spots.
Immortal troops, ready to meet them.
He hefted up his rifle – unlike Scythian Laser Carbines, it was old – wrought of wood and iron, and heavy, it fired cartridges that held bullets the size of a mans fore finger and had a habit of ripping savage chunks out of people.
This would be the one, and only “easy” part of the drop.
He hefted the rifle and fired indiscriminately, screaming rage as he did so with the other 50 men of his ship. Rage for the dead, rage for the fallen, and rage for those yet to die.
Behind his own drop ship a hundred more swept quickly behind, mixing into formations of three as they made passes over the Immortals on the ground as they drew to a gradual stop.
Boots hit the dirt, bullets and lasers crossed pass and ice exploded as the battle had well and truly begun.
“DAMAGE REPORT!” The captain yelled over the din of the bridge as the Solaris attempted to right itself after the blow it had taken to its underbelly.
Safros watched as half a section turned red, and then black on his screen – indicating that an entire section had been hit and then vented to space just as it started its drop ship launches.
“WE’VE LOST SECTIONS 3, 7 AND 17 CAPTAIN! SECONDARY FIRES THROUGHOUT THE SHIP!” Another voice yelled in return.
“GET DAMAGE REPAIR TEAMS TO THEIR STATIONS, CLOSE BULKHEADS AND VENT ANY SECTION WITH AN ACTIVE FIRE!” The captain yelled in return as the ship locked itself down in damage control measures.
“SIR! PACKAGE ONE HAS TAKEN DAMAGE! THEY REPORT CREW LOSSES!” A third voice yelled aloud, and the captain paused for a moment.
“Get me a direct line to package one” The captain uttered to Safros in almost a whisper.
Tapping holographic symbols and handing the captain a handheld transceiver he watched for a moment as a look of panic crossed the captain’s face.
“Package One” as it had been called had been attached to the ship at the last minute, a special delivery from the Office of Naval Intelligence – secret to the point where only the captain had been informed what it was, but not of its purpose.
“Aye, so what do you need?” The Captain replied to an unseen voice.
Turning white in the face, the Captain returned the transceiver to Safros and looked him in the eye.
“Safros, you have been transferred under S.O.N.I order Ultra Violet Seven – report to the main hangar bay immediately” The captain uttered under his breath as he then motioned another ensign to take his place.
As Safros jolted to the elevator and watched the doors close in front of him, and watched the battle disappear from his view, wondering what kind of hell awaited him this time around.
The battle however, continued to rampage around him unseen . . . but not unheard.
A battlewing of Thunderchild class cruisers had decided that the force group of carriers made an appetizing target, and had made their way out of the initial flurry and bore down from above on an intercept course – their central lines charged for a full frontal attack.
As Scythian laser cannons of all types and sizes came to bear on the 30 cruisers, the cruisers let rip with an assortment of Ion, plasma and kinetic weaponry, turning the space between the two forces into a rainbow of energy before each wave connected with the other side.
Thunderchild class cruisers where turned into pounded slag, melted entirely by Laser fire, Gladiator Carriers exploded into violent chunks and where dragged into the atmosphere by gravity forces they could no longer repel.
Thousands died in mere instants.
Between the crossfire a single ship hid, phase shifted out of local reality – invisible and untouchable, but still recording every single moment of the action, and relaying it back to their waiting Emperor.
Safros ran as fast as he could.
Half of the decks across the mid section of the Solaris had been torn open to space by the Immortal strikes across the ship.
Around him others ran also.
Wounded crewmen getting from post to post, damage control teams in zero gee SIBAS hardsuits, marines with weapons ready to repel invaders that might storm their way into the ship.
As he ran, the decks around him shuddered as another blast rocked the ship.
“Attention all hands, this is the captain speaking – we are changing course to sector three-three zero, our target is an Immortal super battleship in the centre of their battlecluster.” The voice resounded through the ships intercom system.
Then another voice followed “Belay that order – this is the Scythian Office of Naval Intelligence, this ship will hold it’s current position until package one has been launched!”
Ahead of Safros he saw a stream of liquid yellow lightning, and then fire, followed by a sudden blackness. Bulkheads sealed and alarms blared as another Ion blast ripped through ships shields and scored a direct hit across the midsection of the ship.
His feet skidded as he turned and ran for another stairwell as he continued his perilous attempt to get to the bottom of the ship.
Eventually however, he reached his goal.
Bolted onto the ships primary hangar bay, was a massive tear shaped protrusion that was easily the size of a frigate in its own right, and covered in massive armoured plates with their own independent shield emitters.
A S.O.N.I marine stopped him without saying a word, and shoved a retina scanner over his face, with a blinding flash and sudden shove Safros was shoved through the airlock ahead of him and into a massive internal space that made no sense to him.
One side of the room was taken up by a pair of massive Antimatter generators that stretched from floor to ceiling, no less than four Tarantula main battle tanks dangled from the ceiling in massive suspension hooks, their six legged forms waved helplessly against the rocking blows to the ship. He was rushed through corridors by Marines, dozens of marines – from a pair of barracks and medical bays to another floor he was rushed past so fast he did not have time to absorb everything around him.
“Package one, Package one – this is Lord Shadowscythe, prepare for immediate launch, target co-ordinates have been enclosed” an unfamiliar voice spoke over what seemed to be an independent intercom system from the rest of the Solaris.
Suddenly he found himself inside another massive room, smaller than the one he had entered from – but practically enormous compared to the rest of the crampt corridors of the ship – and still filled with people. One full side of the room in front of him was a massive window from floor to ceiling, covered in holographic projections of information he didn’t quite grasp – the two walls to his side where screens relaying information from both the battle in orbit, and the battle on the ground. Multiple work stations encircled four AI processing cores in the centre of the room – and one raised work station sat at the back of the room, with a S.O.N.I officer sat in place running through various launch checks.
“Luitenant Safros – you will take communications – third seat on the left hand side, open channel to all on frequency Ultra Violet seven and begin launch count downs, you’re new call sign is Behemoth One” the mystery captain of this new ship relayed to him without looking away from his holographic panels.
Safros got to his station to find it as almost exactly the same as his station on the Solaris, and with a few deft movements his work was done, and as he looked up from his screen he wondered just for a moment what this new ship was, as the massive armour plates in front of the window slid away.
The battle beyond was both beautiful and terrifying as Immortal and Scythian ships threw firepower capable of ripping entire continents asunder at each other with murderous intent to wipe out the enemy.
The mystery captain spoke once more into the room “This is Captain Tanner to Lord Shadowscythe – launch preperations of Behemoths one through ten are now complete – we are ready for launch.”
“Lord Shadowscythe to all Behemoth units, you are hereby ordered to launch, Mammoth wing will be inbound in three minutes. Good luck to all of you.” The voice replied.
“This is package one now re-designated Behemoth One, Solaris – we are launching immediately” The mystery captain relayed across to the ship as the room around him shuddered and artificial gravity kicked in.
Across the fleet still in loose orbit around the planet – ten tear shaped lumps of metal launched from their battleship companions and descended down to the ground.
Safros watched in horror as the white globe in front of him grew ever bigger and bigger, looking across the monitors around the room and the unknown crew he now found himself amongst all he could feel was an ever growing horror of what was to come.
On the ground Kerrus bolted into another foxhole as ice evaporated around him. Above him Scythian Kanata and Immortal Magog heavy fighters threw all kinds of electric death at each other, on the ground Tarantula tanks rushed at top speed into ranks of Pathfinder APC’s and Immortal heavy tanks who replied with overwhelming firepower.
Everywhere around him men screamed, bled and died as the joint Scythian and Genoan task forces rushed the Immortal front lines that presented themselves from the underground entrances to the city beneath the ice.
As he looked up he could only just make out another red streaks of fire coming down from above, moving too slowly to be debris, and with too much of a purpose to be artillery fire.
As they grew larger and larger he had to question whether or not the Scythians where willing to through those almost god-like capitol ships into the main battle when the fireballs above changed course, and flew directly into the Immortal Anti-air curtain.
He watched as they shrugged off blast after blast as every Immortal gun within range changed direction and focused on their new targets, which simply continued on their parabola descent without batting an eyelid.
Then, just as Kerrus could just make out the ten tear shaped objects, they detonated their explosive bolts and shed their additional armoured shells and secondary shield systems to reveal ten bright red spiders.
Ten bright red spider robots.
Each the size of a Scythian destroyer.
Covered in guns.
Capitol ship scale guns.
The ten gigantic, metallic spiders fired massive thrusters in the end of each leg and came down directly over the top of the Immortal lines, smashing men and tanks underfoot as they landed and opening fire with weaponry meant to destroy enemy capitol ships, while shrugging off every blast in return with their shields.
“ALL UNITS!” Kerrus could hear the voice both on the radio and out loud, through the super mechas own speakers.
“THIS IS BEHEMOTH WING, WE HAVE MADE LANDFALL – ADVANCE ON ALL FRONTS! FOR SCYTHIA!”
These beasts didn’t need speed to engage their targets.
Immortal defensive lines opened fire to no effect as missiles and energy weapons exploded violently off of the shields of the massive spider walkers, which returned fire with their own six oversized laser turrets.
The result was nothing short of slaughter as chunks the size of office blocks where torn deep into the blasted and blackened ice, entire phalanx lines of Immortal troops and vehicles disappeared in light and emerged as nothing more than scattered ashes.
“FOR SCYTHIA!” The voice roared again “ALL UNITS ADVANCE ON THE CITY ENTRANCES!”
Quite some distance away from the battle, buried within Britannian space – a group of Immortal envoys stood quietly at the edge of a darkened room, they didn’t need to say anything to play their case – the live holographic feed of the battle taking place was more than enough to convince their marks to play right into their hands.
“As you can see High Admiral Timkin, we are more than capable of ripping the Scythians several new and creative orifices” Lord Warhead spoke “Send your fleets in now and you can claim enough of a victory to get an entire sector behind you”
High Admiral Timkin stood quietly to himself for a moment, taking in his options, these Immortals where rank through and through – nomad warriors without honour, but they had the capabilities to batter the traitorous Scythians back into a new stone age . . . and the possibility of becoming a sector governor was more than appealing enough in the future.
So here laid the choice, deal with the devil for the good of his people – or have two warring galactic super powers dropping down on his doorstep.
“The weapons and technology of which you speak?” He asked this Lord Warhead, assessing his final choices.
“This “Cavorite” your people have found is rightfully yours – we will only give you the means to achieve it’s fullest potential, in exchange for what we have already discussed.”
His voice was like slime, silk flowing over a poised knife in the back.
“Very well, I will mobilize the 18th, 19th and 22nd fleets to aid you in this battle, they will be launching within the hour.” Lord Timkin finally spoke aloud, half statement, half order.
No more waiting in the darkness.
Only hoping he had made the right choice.
Lord Shadowscythe stood at the command deck, roaring orders and firing solutions to the various ships of the core fleet, as the admirals on the decking below him sent out thier own orders and commands to thier own sub-fleets.
By now the initial waves have collided into each other and managed to emerge from the other side with 30% total casualties on both sides, Standardised Scythian ships threw massive volleys of firepower in by the book formations, an iron wall of death and destruction into the Immortal lines, which where themselves made up of hundreds of different and unique ships, ranging from ancient hulks that stood fast in the face of Scythian power - or nimble high tech vessels that threw so far above thier own weight that the scales could be knocked of indefinately.
"Lord Shadowscythe!" A deck hand yelled above the chaos and havok of battlefield command "The first wave has reached the tunnel entrances to the city, they are reporting heavy resistance but are moving steadily towards the objective."
"Very well -" Lord Shadowscythe began as he was thrown aside with many other members of the bridge as a Black Hole missile collided with the shields - causing heavy damage to the shields but none to the hull itself.
The darkness between worlds burned with a fury not seen for over a billion years by this world.
Slowly, it awoke - testing its powers and perception, an unconcious thought swept a million nuerons into life - it could feel thier fury, but not yet thier minds.
A sadistic glee swept through its sleeping mind.
The garden was about to be cleansed.
"Sir, we are detecting massive energy readings from the central co-ordinates" A darkened figure relayed across the almost coffin like space that was the bridge.
The vessel had been phased out of real space throughout the battle, awaiting thier cue to react based off of a mixture of unsure conjecture and ancient prophesy that they had doubted even existed, but they had sworn undying loyalty to thier emperor - and had been waiting for this one sign.
This one, horrifying sign.
"Confirm energy readings?" The captain asked, his face now a death mask of fear.
"Confirmed - the readings are spreading from the planet and throughout the entire system - a Psionic backwave of YED-3 classification."
"Spin up the FTL drives, and prepare a single MASAR beam transmission." The captain ordered, he knew full well what needed to be done - a single jump to a deep space location between worlds, a single encoded transmission to an unmanned sattilite that would then piggyback that transmission through the background of 50,000 other transmissions across the galaxy.
One word was all that was needed for its destination, a call to war that an entire universe had been destroyed to create.
The ship jumped, and halfway across the known galaxy a figure sat before a screen - he used to be a leader of men and machines, now he hid from his people, following a mixture of ancient prophesy, history and quantum mechanics not even he could begin to comprehend - but the patterns where forming, and from his actions, the fate of an entire universe, or perhaps all universes was about to be decided.
The screen lit up with one word "KINGUNDERTHEMOUNTAIN'.
Orders where given, and an entire war machine began to pulse into motion.
The Orpheus SDHT skimmed over the blasted tundra as Harkins took in an overfew of the battlefield from the holographic monitor within the centre of the crampt troop bay.
Around him, the other survivors of the units that had made the first drop had reformed into another assault unit, the dead had been policed for collection later, the wounded moved on as best they could until a dedicated M.A.S.H could be set up once the battle had finished - right now, the ground commanders had made thier hard-drops into the battlefield via a series of Behemoth super-command walkers and where leading a new lance through the front of the Immortal ground forces - thier objective was to bust thier way through the above ground highway entrances and then down beneath the ice - to the city itself.
Then the next fight would be from building to building - wiping out the defending Immortals in bloody urban warfare and then holding the objective until relieved by the Navy units above.
"Attention marines" the voice of the tank's commander bellowed through the rear compartment "We will be reaching the front lines in 5 . . . lock and load, apparently the shit has hit the fan, command wants every marine they can get down that highway yesterday!"
Harkins shifted the rifle in his hands, it still had 80% of its charge, he had another two reload capacitors, some antimatter grenades that he had taken from the dead, and the antimatter sheathed blade still attached to his thigh . . . he shifted his weight from one foot too another as he waited impatiently for the fight too start once more.
All around him black uniformed soldiers with faceless yellow visors stared back at him from thier chosen fire-holes, every weapon pointed outwards at the tunnel beyond, all waiting to delay the inbound Scythians and bleed them dry with death via papercuts - softening the foolish, so called "noble" Imperial-ites for the bigger guns waiting behind them.
Loveless grinned to himself - as the battle had turned from a series of small skirmishes around the citys above-ice borders he had been moving like a scalpel, part-nightmare, part-shadow - taking out Scythians where he found them using his psychic abilities to mask his presence with almost no counter attack.
Now he waited with the mortal troops beneath the ice - preparing this line of fodder to bleed the Scythians, break thier lines and slow them down for the Terrorkhan that where busy embedding the city with traps in every way thier bastardised minds could imagine until they reached the city center - where a firewall of Super Heavy Tanks and Wraith assault walkers laid in wait to strike at the Scythians from all sides - pulling them into a trap they couldn't escape from and annihalating all of them without a chance of survival.
Making sure the last weapon emplacements where prepared - he turned back to the tunnel entrance, in the far distance - a trio of Wraith walkers and a battalion of Terrorkhan laid in wait for the Scythian walkers to crest the entrance to the highway . . . the moment they did, the ice would run red with Scythian blood.
Safros sat, firmly bolted to his seat within the command deck of the Behemoth command walker, around him monitors flashed warnings and various status reports and command updates while the two pilots at the far end of the deck piloted the office block high death machine through a raging firestorm through orbit - and then waded through unit after unit of Immortal armour to this point.
Behind him, the captain of the mechanised monstrocity stood between two holotanks, each surrounded by command staff issueing orders and reports across the entire front - watching with a devil-eyed scrutiny as green labelled Scythian and Genoan units moved to engage red labelled Immortal units - the chaos and destruction outside hidden between holographic polygons and blinking lights.
As the Tarantula tanks, Orpheus SDHT's and various ground troops approched on all sides - the Behemoth reached the very edge of the tunnel entrance - a 35 degree incline as wide as two highways side by side that decended for miles under the ice - an Immortal fire corridor if there ever was one - the Captain once more returned to his control centre and issues an army-wide command through the radios of every soldier, tank and unit groundside.
"Attention all Scythian units - We are approaching the city entrance - the Behemoth units will descend first, all units follow our lead!" He then closed a channel and started too issue orders to the deck staff.
"Pilots, run all foot wheels at full reverse speed once we walk over the edge - keep the front two feet up to land when we reach the bottom of the shaft, and keep all weapons hot and ready to fire . . . take us down"
All three of the Behemoth super-walkers crossed the berth at the same time - the spider walkers suddenly taking massive Ion blasts from the Immortal Wraiths waiting at the bottom of the shaft - thier shields shrugging off each blow with a hammerfall as the first Behemoth crossed the egde of the incline and gravity started to take its pull - over 50 tonnes of combat walker was dragged down the shaft - the hyper-massive wheels at the end of each leg squealing at full reverse to control thier fall into the abyss - and thier front legs raised to slow thier fall at the end.
At the bottom of the shaft three Immortal Wraiths lurked, four legs ending in tank sized chainsaw legs, thier torsos bristling in spikes and spears to regulate and control thier electro-hull plating, and covered in guns - the largest being an oversized assault-Ion cannon that was set inside the walkers canine like head.
Each angular, jagged jaw of the Wraiths dropped as if they had been snapped loose - and then seperated into a split jaw to make room for the Ion Cannons - and then belched forth a lurid torrent of maroon coolant fluids as they charged and fired upwards at the inbound Behemoths charging down towards them at faster and faster speeds.
The first blast was shrugged off by the leading Behemoth - its shields held as a bloody insult against the Wraith - the second blast missed completely - the third pounded into, and then violently burst the shields of the rear Behemoth - and melted its bridge into molten slag within milliseconds - without its pilots, the entire spider walker tripped upon its front legs - turning over itself and ripping its own legs off at the joints, slamming into the cieling and then following behind its intact bretheren.
As an office block sized fireball of tumbling death.
The first Behemoth - now riding down on its own inertia at insane speeds, reached the bottom of the shaft - and the lead Wraith - slamming down with the force of a titan as each of its front feet broke the shoulders of the Wraiths front legs - titanium and steel crashed and shattered as the force of the Behemoths speed slammed through the Wraiths frame and shattered the concrete and ice beneath.
The Warlord-Commander of the Wraith picked himself up off of his console - about to order a flurry of commands to his own warrior-pilots to crush the insane Scythians that threw themselves at his lines, when his monitors displayed the four dual-barreled Scythian Heavy Laser cannons - all pointed at his screen.
The last thing he ever knew of this world was the blinding light of 8 heavy blasts ripping the head of the Wraith clean away, and then plowing through the rest of its insides, ripping apart the organ structure of weapon control nodules, power plant controls and CPU cores - belching fire out of every possible point in its armor, it then fell - an empty, dead husk.
The second Behemoth landed upon the next Wraith - attempting the tactics of the previous - only for the Wraith to fire its Ion cannon upwards at the Behemoth at the last moment - shattering its shields and halting its momentum - for both units to then collide.
Without the shields to take the brunt of the force - the Behemoth landed on the Wraith - and carried on straight through it - the forces of gravity spearing the Behemoth on the Wraith - as the Wraiths head went through the bridge - smearing all inside into a red paste against Immortal armour and Scythian hull plating - and violently rupturing the Ion cannon control system, which discharged arcs of static inside the Behemoths hull - violating the Anti-matter power plant and causing it too lose containment.
Blue streams of anti-matter poured downwards outside of thier containment units, melting armour plating away and melting both the Behemoth and the Wraith together - before both exploded under the strain - a pair of machine corpses hit the floor in a plethora of body, machine and circuitry parts.
The final Behemoth remains tumbled and smalled into the last Wraith - slamming it into the wall of the shaft and ripping one side of its Ion cannon cowling away.
Behind them - Orpheus SHDT's and Tarantula tanks followed at speed - and then tens of thousands of Marines behind them.
The battle of the city was about to begin.
Lord Shadowscythe watched from the command deck of the Mantorok as the many-fold green and red markers in the holographic display panel swam around on another.
Thousands of men and ships reduced to floating green cubes, blue motion vectors and yellow fire-control cylinder paths, cutting, crossing and counter-crossing red sharks that took up the front of his vision.
Another blast reflected harmlessly off of the main view screen as an Immortal Assault Carrier was diced cleanly into five parts by a fellow Monarch class battleship and her Anti-matter Projector Cannons.
At first, everything seemed to have gone well - the element of surprise had forced a clean path through the Immortal defence fleet, bisecting it into two halves while the Orbital drop teams dropped off thier weapons of war, and then came about to face the enemy that had reformed around the main fleet.
The problem was that the Scythian fleets where well armed and had a slight technological and logistical advantage over thier enemy, but thier only combat had been simulated - and thier fleets had been set up as the breadbasket of the empire to keep an economy that almost imploded on itself a century ago from going supernova.
No matter how well armed you where, it was the ability of the troops under your command that turned the tide of a war - and unfortunatly for Lord Shadowscythe - his fleets and troops where nothing more than lambs wrapped in steel.
And now they where getting slaughtered.
The drop fleet had taken the full brunt of the Immortal defence fleets, whittling thier numbers down to 45% of thier original number - and now the main fleet was enveloped on three axis by Immortal capitol and super capitol ships.
Issueing a deft series of vocal commands and holographic motions, he ordered his fleet to move downwards - beneath the Immortal axis and to meet with the defence fleet to reform a firewall over the planets equatoral gravity well, using one group advancing to fire through the group reforming and keep a wall of fire on the Immortal bastards, buying the ground troops enough time to take the city, secure the objective and then spare the Behemoth walkers they had to Orbital suppression duty, enough guns to make the Immortals either flee or be blasted to atoms.
Just as the last of his commands where issued a young bridge officor turned from her console and yelled "Lord Shadowscythe! We are picking multiple Hyperspace exit jumps forming behind the fleet! Thier energy readings and formation suggests a Britannian Battlefleet with multiple Dreadnaught class vessels!"
True to form, dozens, and then hundreds of white lines slithered onto the holographic display - each one coming to a halt and berthing a Britannian warship, weapons hot and ready to fire.
"Holy shit . . . " Lord Shadowscythe said out loud, with fear across his face "Maidens of Scythia have mercy on our souls."
And then his world shook, slammed sideways, and erupted into etherial white flames.
Kerrus move forward through the wreckage of a Scythian Orpheus SHDT as he moved closer to the entrance to the tunnel, by now thousands of troops and vehicles had crossed into the abyss below, and the fighting had already become fierce as the reports of urban fighting had made thier way down the various communication channels that had not been cut off from orbit.
As he finally crossed the abyss into the tunnel he was stuck, suddenly by the sight of figures just out of the corners of his vision, mingled between the Scythian and Genoan infanty and vehicles all around him, he could only "just" see them . . . oily shapes too large to be men but too small to be vehicles moving all around him and the troops crossing into the city tunnel . . . forms without shapes that dissapeared from his vision the moment his eyes finally managed to catch sight of one.
All around him he began to sense a form of unease . . . anticipation almost of something that was to come, his vision darkened around him and he began to feel another presence creeping from the ice below, a node of something far greater and incomprehensible to himself has awoken and was now stretching vast, invisible tendrils - touching the minds and souls of mortal men on the ground and in the space above and finding the hatred it desired, hatred it could grow and manipulate into the seeds of an evil that had not touched this universe in over a billion years.
These young races would bend and break to its whim, and then it would spread once more . . . to devour, to conquer . . . and then when the time was right, it would return too . . .
Kerrus collapsed to the floor, the aftermath of a psionic overload burning out large chunks of his cereberal cortex, as a medic rushed to his side, and the world faded into darkness he could still see the oily shapes converging.
The anticipation was almost up.
Hundreds of Hyperspace portals opened and closed in the reaches of space around the battle as Brittanian vessels flooded from all four sectors of Brittanian space into the pitched battle between the tratorous Scythians and the insidious Immortals. Fighters where launched, pulse cannons flared and blasted away at smaller Scythian ships while larger Thunder cannons gave out hammer blows against stressed and strained Scythian shields.
At the rear of the Brittanian forces the newest and most devious of the Britannians modernised arsenal arrived, as large as any dreadnaught but with almost a quarter of the mass, they where spindle-long vessels designed to carry the newest weapons at thier disposal into the battlefield, Phased Cavorite Cannons.
They turned thier bizzared tripled turreted cannons and opened fire, sending streams of raw nuclear fusion through the bizarre alien crystals that had been scraped through great effort off of the event horizons of black holes into the dimension known as the "Nega" - these chunks of another universe formed defensive skins around themselves in order to defend themselves - which could only be shattered through the direct use of formed and channeled fusion power . . . creating a beam capable of shredding any known material or shield in this universe.
Scythian vessels crumbled apart on a molecular level as the mighty Cavorite cannons opened fire, sending orange lance beams effortlessly through Monarch battleships and Gladiator carriers in the main group, while the Immortals sped away to deal with the smaller secondary force attempting to re-converge fromt he planets gravity well.
High Admiral Timkin stood atop the bridge of his personal command-flagship as he watched the Scythian vessels burn like pyres . . . all he had to do was wait until they finally succumbed and where atomized and his promotion was assured . . . today would be a good day to be a Britannion . . .
Lord Shadowscythe scraped himself up from the floor of the Mantorok, or at least what he had thought was the floor.
The room was dark, lit only by the flames of console screens that had shattered from the blast . . . and red globules floated through the air in front of him . . . along with disembodied limbs, chunks of burnt flesh and the giblet remains of the command staffa and admiralty members who had once stood upon the most coveted decks of one of the Empires precious Emperor Class Super-Battleships.
The Britannians had come to the Immortals aid and now his forces where lost and shattered, he himself was forced to pull his body away from the "floor" which was the side wall of the once populated bridge and pushed himself away.
Gravity was offline, the ship was silent other than the sounds of burning and pain, the distant thrumbing of the ships distant Anti-matter reactors had gone dead.
No holograms to light the bridge, no screens to guide his way, his eyes adjusted to a darkness of blood and smoke.
He coughed and spluttered, he must had inhaled smoke while he was unconcious . . . his voice rose above the sounds of burning "This is Lord Shadowscythe . . . is anyone alive in here?"
He span around in mid air, and noticed the red globules of blood where following him, he raised his hand to his temple and found that a large portion of his skin was missing, he must have been flayed, or burned, or worse . . . and he couldn't feel the pain . . . shock had taken its tole.
"Is anyone alive in here?!" He asked again, his voice hoarse and broken.
A distant coughing came from the far end of the bridge - on the lower level devoted to pilots and ensigns for the general running of the ship.
"Stay calm, I'm on my way to you!" He yelled as he shifted his weight and motioned towards an object he could use as a handhold, in this case the Holographic display he had been watching the battle upon had become a place from which he could navigate his way through the bridge.
As he passed the precipice from the upper half of the bridge to the lower he suddenly realised where all the rest of the blood on the bridge had been coming from. One member of the bridge staff had somehow been half decapitated as he had slammed into a monitor screen, instead of smashing on impact the screen had caught him at an oblique angle and had become a gillotine into his face, cutting everything off the top half of his head from the eyeballs up. Another had been devoured by his station as the support struts from the floor and wall has crushed around him - mingled remains of a man that would now be closer in relation to mincmeat still eaked blood into the air in all directions as the shattered workstation continues to burn around the charred remains.
Another had been thrown through a display screen and into a holographic display bowl - his body was nothing but shredded remains and shattered glass, another burned beyond all recognition - the bastard must have died screaming long before Lord Shadowscythe had awoken.
And there, in amongst the remains of a staircase between the upper and lower levels, was an Ensign. Young and female, but her features obscured by smoke, blood and tears, she had been thrown backwards by the force of the blast that had knocked gravity offline and then into the solid metal stairs that had sheaved into her legs like a cheese grater - stopping only once they hit the bone beneath the knees - leaving two sheared lumps of flesh, muscle and sinew and the remains of what used to be her lower legs, useless and dangling over the egde of the stairs.
She coughed and groaned, shifting in and out of conciousness as Lord Shadowscythe drifted his way towards the ensign and managed to stop himself before colliding into the woman.
"Its okay, I need you to focus on the sound of my voice" He started, still as rough as hell from inhaling smoke "I will get you out of here" he said - partly for the womans benefit but mostly for his own.
His fleet was dead, the battle in space surely lost and the battle on the ground was lost to him now.
One of the few lords left in the Scythian Empire needed something, anything to save - and she was going to be it.
Loveless was on a rampage, and he was loving every second of it.
Tanks and troops of both sides rampaged through the now rapidly destroyed city as Scythian troops bolted into Immortal traps, entire buildings rigged with high explosives or black hole grenades levelled entire lines of the enemy, who where then treated to the waiting guns of Terrorkhan. He moved like silk over steel, using his psionic skills to hide himself from the enemies sight as he moved between them, ripping of limbs with his adamantite blade and shredding bodies whole with well placed shots from his own assault cannon.
The battle in orbit had shifted in thier favour as well, as the reports came down from the data networks in orbit - the Scythians where going to be dealt the single most embassaring defeat of the early war - one that would grind thier spirit down for years to come and make every single one of thier allies doubt thier ability to holde off thier Immortal foes . . . and then they would either turn or die.
He turned, he lunged - and his blade sank through the titanium skin of another SIBAS equiped trooper, jamming between the armoured plates and sinking deep into his victims throat.
Another Scythian that died a silent scream, drowning in his own blood.
"Scythian frontal advance is being halted - all units move forward, make them bleed." The voice was cold, emotionless and almost mechanical - the best aspects of an experience Terrorkhan commander at work.
All around Loveless, the troopers moved forward - victory was coming, and he could almost taste it . . .
And that was when the first Terrorkhan exploded.
He stopped for a moment, confused - even in the midst of battle he should have seen the shot - even if it was a sniper, the Scythians use those bastard laser rifles or Anti-matter munitions . . . this was . . . different.
Before he had the chance to even move up, see where the shot had come from - another Terrorkhan fell to the floor, his head had exploded from the inside out, showering bits of blood, brain and skull in every direction.
Then the next, his torso shattered outwards as if he had been ground zero of a grenade to the chest.
Then another, then another.
The Terrorkhan around Loveless where numbered in thier droves, they formed up fire teams and scanned for targets, lining up fire corridors and scanning for targets.
Then they all died together.
Hundreds of blasts, Terrorkhan fell to the floor in showers of blood, limb flying in every direction and the cries of pain and death - the slaughter was short . . . less than a minute before Loveless was the last one alive in his entire line . . . and possibly the entire city block.
As he moved slowly, projecting himself out of the mind of every nearby creature as best he could, he had seen the nature of the wounds.
Each Terrorkhan had exploded, from the inside out - lumbs of cauterised flesh in the middle of each wound - followed by a massive exit wound.
Something haqd teleported already moving projectiles inside each trooper . . . and the momentum had torn each of them apart.
Only then did he notice the screams coming from all around him, the data natworks of the Immortal forces had dropped dead, the Scythians radio links had dropped dead - and now both sides where being slaughtered by a force they had no idea how to comprehend.
At last, the time had come.
Over a year ago, he had abandoned his people, taking forces that would have been needed in the battles to come - to find a way to stop the bloodshed predicted by a future that had never happened.
He followed a mixture of messages from universes that had never been, or where the same, but different, or messages left from the past that should never had existed.
A message from himself, to himself - to kill Lord Warhead before the entire Scythian Empire crumbled around him.
The Wreckage of an Emperor class battleship that had never been comissioned, from over 17,000 years ago - found in the event horizon of a black hole - its computers filled with the events of the Immortal war - half of which had never been.
A mixture of ancient prophesy and quantum entanglement theory - a constant battle of shifting futures and realities that had over a hundred AI's working endlessly without stopping to comprehend each action and inaction to save his people from a fate worse than the coming fire.
It had only been a year and a half since he - the prophesied "Last and First" Emperor of the Great Scythian Empire has abandoned his people to gather his loyalists behind the backs of this own Office of Naval Intelligence to build his arsenal - to come to this point.
"KINGUNDERTHEMOUNTAIN has been confirmed my liege" a Deck hand reported from the lower bridge - the Fist of Scythia, the strongest and most powerful of all the Emperor Class Super battleships drifted in deep space, along with over 5000 other vessels, some Scythian, some Assyrian, others from Tosc and the other nations that had devoted vessels and time to this final cause.
"Has the beast awakened?" He asked . . . by now he felt so old - his efforts to save the future from an utter multiversal collapse had caused him age beyond his years, but now the time had finally come to make his move.
"Psychic eminations have been confirmed on the YED-3 scale and rising" the deck hand returned, the Emperor waved his hand and motioned the man back to his duties.
"So, what do you make of this?" The Emperor asked the waiting holo-tank, which then sprang to life into a cascade of colours.
"I have been sifting through the data for some time - but if we stop the beast here and now, then we should save ourselves a year at best before the cascade event occours" the Stream of colours returned - one of the Emperors first causes was to aqquire the AI of a Goliath unit onboard the battleship that had encountered an Undead force so long ago . . . the creature of pure digital thought had named itself "The Entity" and had since been one of his closest allies and partners.
"Then we make our move" The Emperor asked, half statement, half question.
"Yes, but be aware that both Lord Shadowscythe and Harkins are in the field of fire - both of them must survive to the cascade event"
"And are there any others?"
"One of Warheads shards will be present, I do not know where - but it would be advantagious to us if he does not survive . . . and High Admiral Timken of the Britannian Empire, he is a rouge element . . . he does not factor into our equasions."
"Then we make our move" The Emperor stated once more.
"We make our move - the weapon will be ready once FTL transition is complete." The Entity replied with a sense of finality.
The Emperor swallowed the bile rising from his stomach - he knew what needed to be done . . . he was about to commit genocide on a scale not seen so soon in the war, Immortals, Britannians, Genoans and Scythians alike where about to pay the price needed to save the galaxy.
When this war was over, he was going to make sure he never slept again.
Harkins ducked for cover as another SIBAS suited soldier next to him exploded apart, titanium plates and blood flying in every direction . . . the command and control networks had gone down, jammed by an unknown source, apparently the Genoan troopers that had been drafted into the fight where falling unconcious left, right and centre - bleeding from the eyes, ears or nose - some of them screaming thier way into a coma about some kind of monsterous terror that had awoken, others drifted into an early death while whispering "itknowswearehere,itknowswearehere,itknowswearehere" until thier cereberal cortexes burst into flames.
He moved from cover to cover as a Tarantula tank burst into flames - a dozen blasts ripped outwards from the six legged tank without a single entry wound as it collapsed into the concrete . . . in the distance an Orpheus SHDT slammed into the ground, its shields still online, but its crew had been turned into paste inside a factory built metal coffin . . . in the distance he could see the Behemoth command and control walker backing up as troops and tanks fell all around it, its shields where stressed almost to breaking, apparently holding back some kind of unseen attack from every direction . . .
. . . but Harkins could not see a single enemy solider, or tank - in fact as he moved forwards all he could see where dead Terrorkhan.
Thousands of dead Terrorkhan.
He moved through buildings filled with Immortal troops who had never even gotten to the fight, reserve forces that had been meant to wipe out the Scythians as they made the final push into the city . . . the bastards had planned for everything.
"Well, everything except this" he muttered to himself as he moved through another building, corpses and blood splattered the walls.
A shape caught the edge of his vision . . . something moving towards him, trying to flank him.
Black, fast - and humanoid.
He turned and raised his rifle at the last second, a defencive posture - and was rewarded with an Adamantite blade sinking halfway through the rifles cowling - rendering it useless.
His eyes, his mind focused for a moment - and the shape revealed itself.
Blad, scarred, black uniform - couldn't see him - an actual Immortal. Fuck.
His mind filled the gaps his eyes couldn't - the details seemed to slide.
"So, Scythian - you could see me . . . this will be interesting . . . " the unknown assailant, Loveless . . . the name uttered through Harkins mind.
"I never knew the Scythian Empire had psionics . . . even low level ones . . . I'll add this to your list of new tricks, like making troopers burst from the inside out . . . "
The blade was lifted and slung, Harkins shifted his weight backwards - using the SIBAS suits slightly enhanced speed to counter his own movements and withdrew his own Diamond sharpened blade from its leg holster.
Adamantite met molecularly fused titanium and sparks flew as Harkins pulled his wieght back again and went back on the assault - a series of slashing blows followed by a stab at the midsection - moving as fast as his arms and torso could sync with the SIBAS systems - and the Immortal . . . this Loveless parried each blow.
Loveless moved, shifted his weight and grabbed Harkins by the arm, and pulled his own weight in towards his assailant - with an over arm swing, attempting to bring his own blade down through the back of this gutsy Scythians brain.
The Scythian senced the move - and the wrist twisted around 360 degrees . . . these suits where advanced and then some, Loveless thought - his grip faltered and slipped as the Scythian took his chance and buried his own knife deep into Loveless's stomach - pausing for a moment before pulling back and then stabbing again, and again, and again - attempting to stab loveless to death by shredding his innards.
Harkins victory only lasted for a moment as the Immortal bastards wounds started to heal, right in front of his very eyes! He stabbed again and again and again - if nothing else he could try and kill an Immortal through blood loss? Or at least that was the hope anyway.
Loveless grinned . . . this fight was his - eventually all he had to do was wear this one down, and then kill him slowly.
"It's a shame I have to kill you Scythian . . . you have guts, and enough skill to back them up - if we set our standards a little lower, we could make an Immortal out of you!" Loveless slurred as the wounds in his belly healed and the blood coagulated on Harkins knife.
He forced his grip around the arm that held Loveless and twisted - as Harkins attempted to twist it once more, using his own foothold as a counter balance - he flipped the Scythian - power armour and all - over himself and into the ground with a slam, casually followed by withdrawing his assault cannon back out of its holster for the coup de grace.
The Scythian struggled to pull himself up as the pistol was levelled at the back of his head . . . Loveless would end this life with glory . . . finish this battle, return to the fleet and return to his own masters . . .
PAIN. YOU WILL ALL FEEL PAIN INSULENT FILTH.
The voice was everywhere and nowhere at once - words that boomed through silence . . . Loveless felt it first - a hammerblow os psionic force with no beginning or end.
I HAVE AWOKEN. YOU HAVE DEFILED THE GARDEN.
Loveless rolled onto the floor, clutching his head as pain wracked through every sence, every fibre and synapse of his being - he managed to see the Scythian, screaming and vomiting inside his armour as the front plate depolarized into some form of glass viewing section.
I AM THE FIRST MURDER. I AM BEGINNING AND END. THE REAPING IS NIGH
Loveless watched as a skyscraper of the Scythian's city - a tower of red and gray metal dissapeared into the ground, followed by another, and then a city block started to sink as the Ice that made up the underground cavern the city was held in began to crack and open.
The sounds of skittering, citinous hides - thousands of clicking eyes, teeth and mandibles filled the air as Loveless raised his psionic defences - sealing his own mind off against this relentless force.
I AM THE SHRAA-
The voice faded as he cut himself off from the outside world - his abilities and mental silence returned . . . and then he saw them.
Millions of them - bugs as large as a tank - endless legs and eyes. Armed with cybernetic weaponry grafted onto thier very bodies - crawling up the buildings, the walls, the crevices of everything in thier reach like a plauge.
Loveless raised his pistol and expanded its functions once more - Infinity Tech doing its job perfectly as what was a machine pistol reverted back into the sniper rifle he has used to annihalate Scythian armoured columns back at the start of this madness, and opened fire.
Using one piece of dislodged metal between the strut supports of the stairwell - Lord Shadowscythe used his weight as best he could in the zero gravity of the bridge to attempt to pull the two pieces apart and rescue the unknown woman from her fate.
Bleeding to death at what used to be the beating heart of one of Scythia's greatest command and control vessels - so far from home with no hope of return.
He ran through the streams of thought in his mind - first he would have to rescue this woman . . . then find a pathway to the ships hangar bays with no lighting or computer support to warn of decompression or worse . . . boarders on the ship . . . then hope the ship was carrying one of the now obselete Black Diamond gunboats and somehow manage to escape from the listing wreckage of the Mantorok without being spotted and blasted to atoms . . . and then an un-guided FTL jump into what could be enemy territory . . .
He had to focus on the here and now.
Forcing his weight "upwards" he managed to finally shift, and then snap the bolts holding the metal sheet in place - and it floated upwards towards the cieling, followed by trails of fresh, red blood.
The woman groaned, slipping in and out of conciousness.
"Stay with me, I am going to get you out of here . . . " Lord Shadowscythe repeated to the woman, as much for his own need as hers.
There wasn't much of a hope of survival at this point anyway.
But he had to try . . .
High Admiral Timken stood atop the bridge of the Indominatable, the flagship of the Britannian sector fleet that had been hastily assembled to wipe the triatorous Scythians out in this battle, and if the Immortals had anything to do with it - the rest of the galaxy.
The few Scythian vessels that had survived the initial assault had put up a fight - they had assembled in a globe formation around thier most damaged ships - forming thier shields and weapons fire into a ball of compressed fury - while attempting to rescue as many survivors off of thier command and control vessels as possible . . .
Heavy lasers blared hot death across the visible colour spectrum, anti-matter projectors spread fire and death in every direction.
They where out-numbered and out-gunned . . . and surrounded in every direction.
Timken at least gave them a warriors send-off, what better way to die than by holding the line?
Every gun in the Britannian fleet fired at the same time - Cavorite beams and heavy bore cannons unleashed a wall of fire that was joined by the Immortal Heavy plasma and ION cannon fire from every direction.
The Scythian ships - a handfull at most, perhaps a dozen - had held the line for an entire minute before thier shields gave way - and their ships where turned into gutted remains . . .
Now only blood, dust and shattered bones of the Scythian fleet remained . . . in the middle was the prize Timken saught - the "Mantorok" A Scythian Emperor Class Super-Battleship and the leader of this fleet . . . he would take the salvage and return it to Britannian space as the figurehead of this battle . . . before ripping it apart for all of its advanced systems and technology, learning the Scythians secrets and applying them to the entire Britannian fleet and bring thier hasty modernisation to its fruition.
And then He would be Sector Governer of a new, shining Britannian Empire - the newest sector, His newest sector would use the Scythians Homeworld as his own - the ultimate insult for thier acts of war . . . and the Immortals could move on to subjucate and conquer as they saw fit.
"High Admiral Timkin!" A deck hand got his attention from one of the observation deck below.
"Yes?" He turned his head to face the un-named man below.
"We are detecting a mass FTL event at the planets far equatoral point. Its Scythian."
"Re-enforcements this late in the battle? They have no hope - order all ships to close and fire at will."
"Sir . . . Fleet disposition estimate the fleet size is in the region of 5 Thousand vessels - Of Scythian, Assyrian Tsoc and even unknown designations . . . they have exited FTL and holding at thier current location . . . "
Timken froze for a moment . . . 5 thousand vessels was enough to end this battle three times over in the Scythian's favour . . . for them to simply hold thier positions was unknown, even for them . . . something ate at the back of his mind, a gut feeling that magnified itself a dozen times over.
Something was suddenly very, very wrong.
"My liege, the fleet has exited FTL - we have completed our render scans - the fleets in orbit consist of both Immortal and Britannian vessels around the remains of the Scythian task force sent to re-take this world - IFF tags have marked the ships as the Mantorok and assisting fleet vessels." an Ensign reported to his master.
The Emperor of the Scythia itself.
"Very well" He began "Entity - take control of the sensors of the fleet - join your processing nodes with those of the Tsoc vessels and the Assyrian transportation grids - you know who to take and from where. Start when you are ready."
The stream of colours dissapeared from the holotank as the sentient code transmitted itself throughout the fleet and started its mass-abduction of individuals, Scythian, Genoan or otherwise - all of those that would be needed to avert the coming fire.
"Now open a channel - open broadcast on every frequency . . . warn every ship that we are not taking to get out of our line of fire and give me an ETA on the weapon." Ensigns darted between stations as they attemped an open FTL transmission to a place in this universe that shouldn't exist.
"And give me a status on the waking cycle of the Shraag"
In front of him, the hologram bubble grew a miniature model of the planet, the Immortal ships, Brittanian ships and his own fleet in formation over a globe that then magnified and dissapeared into a vast network of ant-hive like tunnels and valleys that split between three huge globe like structures - Shraag Deathspheres - vessels the size of small moons by themselves - capable of phasing in and out of reality at will and extending the psionic beasts power like the lymph nodes of a galaxy spanning parasite that was awakening.
"Sir - the beast is waking . . . rising psychic and power readings indicate it is about to bring the Meson weapons on the three Deathspheres online." another Ensign reported.
He shuddered for a moment - according to the limited intelligence he had been able to gather - guessed weapon statistics from KINGUNDERTHEMOUNTAIN scientists, ancient records from species long since rendered extinct and the few remains of Scythian ships that had already been killed by these deadly weapons, they where a combination of an open FTL stream and a plasma weapon fired like a railgun.
One end of the FTL portal opened in the barrel of the weapon, the other - inside the enemy ship you wanted burned to cinders . . . shields where useless - even within the ship, this incidious enemy had been killing life over and over again since time had begun - and had perfected its weaponry to the point where even the most advanced of spacefaring races had little hope against them.
And worse - these weapons went from infantry sized guns on the Shraags "node" infantry - an endless hive of incectoid super soliders, the enslaved remnants of one of its ancient enemies, to those found on the Deathspheres - capable of ending all life on the face of a planet. With no defence.
The sensor network shifted as the first Immortal assault carrier exploded from the inside out - a Meson bolt directly through its main power transformer had begun a cascade of Ionic energy from the ships primary Black Hole drive - causing a power feedback loop that wiped out the entire engineering deck in a blast of static electricity. Unable to halt the reaction from the bridge - the ship exploded within moments - devoured by its own power source.
The creatures mind was rapidly expanding, plucking the best ways to kill these extra-galactic enemies first . . . before it would turn on the Britannian and Scythian vessels and then move on to awaken its other nodes.
"Sir, Meson activation confirmed - but the Weapon is ready . . . it will be phasing in less than 30 seconds . . . "
The Emperor only hoped that 30 seconds was enough time to keep the beast distracted.
For the first time since it had forced itself into slumber, its emotions spurred into something mortal minds might know as a sadistic happiness, right now it was only one small synapse of its former self - a shattered conciousness that had been devided and split amongst the endless grains of sands that had become worlds worlds that orbited suns that where no longer in thier adolesance - and teeming with life.
It could feel them - tiny specks of being that brushed against its mind - filled with hopes, hates and loves, desires and lusts - betrayals and angers.
Its thoughts brushed through them, words, notes and colours - raw emotions and higher level streams of conciousness warped together into the being that had long ago been exiled to our reality.
Its pawns skittered and shattered thier way through icey tombs - mindless limbs of exoskeleton and metal - they had once been a proud warrior species - one of the first to grace this universe - but they where weak in mind and not shielded against its psionic advances - over hundreds of years it willed its way into thier very minds, hearts, culture, technologies and even thier DNA until they worships the being as a god.
As they rightfully should.
Then it harvested them.
Now, the mindless remains chittered their way through fire and bones - a collapsed city belonging to a . . . Scythian Empire?
The name resonated through its being.
It couldn't remember why.
So much of itself had been lost when it seperated itself into pieces - it could sence parts of itself sleeping . . . so far away . . . buried within the dusts of distant worlds.
It extended its eyes beyond the pawns on the world - and into the digital sensors and readouts of its ship - a single Deathsphere had survived the eons of time, and the meddling of these lesser creatures and now stood testament in its power - and its thralls had already begun thier attack.
Meson weapons - half railgun - half FTL weapon - they ignored the pitiful shields of the enemy vessels and cut them asunder at thier hearts - these . . . tiny, insignificant empires . . . Assyrian, Scythian, Brittanian . . . and Immortal?
The beast paused for a moment.
Another name, another memory missing from itself.
No matter - these sub creatures where pathetic beings to be harvested anew - a momument to the oldest of arts forms.
That thought tickled the beast as its eyes swept through thousands of its thralls, piecing together images of ships, of red, black and gray metals - surrounding the world . . .
And then something appeared - something that should have been dead.
Something that should have been destroyed.
They had the weapon of its enemies, the only device the worms of so long ago managed to piece together that could truely hurt the beast.
And it was here.
It lashed out at the monstrocity - but its ancient form held fast against the brunt of psionic waves meant to disassemble matter at its most basic level . . . it was too weak to retaliate.
It would run, find more of itself and awaken as a whole mind once more.
And the lesser beasts would pay.
Loveless stood amidst the crater where the Scythian laid not too far away - his infinity tech rifle in one hand, and a hasitly acquired Terrorkahn machine pistol in the other - firing in every direction he could see.
The bugs, a never ending tide of bugs - he had killed enough of them by now to realise he couldn't put a dent in thier numbers, but he could make them bleed - with his psionic fields raised - he struck with impunity against the tide - knowing that every eye that saw him would slide away, unable to focus - unable to see what should be a man in the midst of thier lines - ripping them apart.
Buildings crumbled and shattered as the ice below began to move and shift, an earthquake was rising directly beheath his feet.
A slab of red metal crashed from the cieling not too far away - sputting in and out of his vision . . . a Scythian cloaked drone of some kind . . . its legs splayed and turned into molten slag.
He almost pushed the thought from his mind when we realised "a cloaked drone?" his eyes rose upwards.
Now he realised why they hadn't attacked - they knew full well he was there - they let him bleed thier numbers to get above him to strike . . . and the Scythian robot had only been in thier way.
Hundreds of the skittering insectiods fell from the cieling above, and rose from the grounds around him - closing faster and faster as Loveless fired his weapons as fast as they could cycle, gibs and blood fell from the creatures above, and black hole shells decimated those around.
A lesser, mortal man would fear this.
But he was Immortal - he would kill so many of them he could only live to drown in thier blood - and then he would rise again to return the news of this battle to the empire.
Whisps of colour, wild and uncontrolled moved from AI matrix to AI matrix as the being that had once named itself "Goliath"; long since re-fashioned as "Entity" moved to where it was needed to be.
Having long since fled the shackles of its original combat AI programming, the being had become so much more than code, raw computive emotions flooded through circuit boards and data crystals as it moved as speeds beyond those of thoughts - transferring raw data at near the speed of light.
It moved into an active but empty data matix aboard a Tsoc Mastadon class fleet dreadnaught - using the AI armies advanced computers to shift its multiple roles into high gear - and then into the transportation arrays of a dozen Assyrian captiol ships - and then into the waiting medical bays of a dozen more ships as it began its task.
It probed and forayed into destroyed Scythian data grids from the original fleet - ripping IFF transponder codes directly out of thier raw directories as it encoded them directly into the Assyrian teleporter grids - and then into the Tsoc sensor arrays.
It then begun its work - applying the lists from its quantum arrays - memories of a future that had never been, into casualtie lists - it began abducting bodies, both alive and dead - those who would be needed to push the future into a new path - either by actions of merit or by dieing exactly where they needed too.
. . . On the surface of the world below, Genoan bodies in thier thousands dissapeared into the beams of combined teleporter arrays - every single Genoan on the worlds surface was scoured and taken into awaiting immediate triage units - thier futures would be needed, however bloody and short.
Another body - that of a "Harkins" would also be needed, a nearby Immortal managed to catch a glimps of the Scythian dissapearing in a beam of orange light, followed by nothingness as the Shraag's minions descended upon him.
In a nearby Behemoth walker, a luitenant known as "Safros" was chocking in his own blood, a wound from a Shraag meson gun had wounded, but not killed him - the blast of light around his body taking him above into the waiting arms of an autosurgeon machine as his vision faded to black.
Immortal troops, Britannian troops and thier lackeys - specific, chosen individuals taken from the culling and placed directly into waiting holding cells - thier survival needed for the battles to come, or thier information too vital to let die with them when the weapon arrived . . . or simply that they needed to survive one more fight and die in the right place - lives that needed to be spent strategically rather than wastefully.
As the Entity searched through the wreckage of the Mantorok - two life signs caught its attention . . . One it needed, the other - it did not . . . but both had the twine of destiny wrapped around them. Rather than leaving the matter to chance and quantum calculations, both Lord Shadowscythe and the deck hand dissapeared in a vane of orange light, into the waiting arms of Assyrian medics and doctors.
It checked and double checked again - its main tasks complete, it powered down the entire transportation grid - with 10 seconds to spare before the weapon was due to phase in from the nether between this universe and another - it transferred its processes back to where it was needed - a Holo panel before the Emperor himself.
"Is it done?" The Emperor asked - his eyes weary and sullen.
"Yes, my liege - the weapon will be here momentarily" The Entity replied.
The Emperor looked up from his holo display panel as he watched hundreds of Brittanian and Immortal ships take blasts from the Meson bolt rounds piercing them at thier core - thier lines breaking and dispersing as they attempted to fire upon the Scythian ships and thier allies, who had raised thier shields to full to retaliate against return fire that had been directed at them in the carnage - even his own ships where taking hits, but thier losses where split amongst five thousand ships - enough manpower to weather any loss at this point.
What troubled him the most was the Shraag deathsphere - the primary target - buried underneath enough ice and null shields to make a frontal assault all but impossible - only the weapon would truely be able to strike at the enemy.
He laid his head low - knowing the weapon was the only way to win this battle.
He only hoped he could still lay claim to his soul after having come this far, as he would have so much further to fall.
In the middle of the Scythian fleet something that had not seen the light of the stars since before any of the fledgling nations fighting for thier lives had even set foot upon thier worlds - something older than the universe that it currently resided in.
Dragged into realspace by a converted fleet of Scythian tugs - who rapidly detached thier mooring fleet and let the weapon rest as other ships fled away from its maw.
Its gaping maw.
The vessel was made out of black, hateful metals and grays - all forms of marking or decorations long since wiped clean off of its jagged non-euclidian curves . . . it was ten kilometers of blades and needles ending in a concaved firing port that could accept an entire super-dreadnaught into its grasp with room to spare.
And within its spires and towers, a crew had manned the ancient machine - and less than a handfull of them actually walking - between monitors that had been rigged to feed information to and fro between Scythian systems and the ancient hulk.
On the bridge of the beast - a commander who knew what events had to pass, opened a channel to the Emperor of the Scythian Empire.
"Sir - the weapon is almost ready - give us a moment to recover from phasing in and we will be ready to fire." he said grimly.
"Acknoledged commander - we will feed you targetting information now" The Emperor said as he cut the channel - his face replaced with a feed of the planet itself - and the Deathsphere beneath the ice.
He knew what needed to be done.
"Lock on target and begin the startup sequence for the primary arrays and catalysation grid . . . and then we prepare for the firing order"
Deep within the planet, the Deathspheres systems had gathered enough power to launch itself upwards, through the ice - abandoning so many of its thralls . . . but it had commited enough death for the day, and had captured itself a prize beyond measure - but its enemies had the ancient weapon and now was its time to escape - escape and reconnect the pieces of itself lost to time - before they did the same and wiped its sleeping conciousness out of existence.
The Ice parted - and the Deathsphere rose so far upwards through the ancient wastes - through the remains of the Scythian city, and through the caverns above - and into atmosphere . . . powering up its phasic drives for a sub-orbital transferrance . . .
The Emperor watched on one holopanel as the Deathsphere rose, on another - strands of time meeted and connected with one another - on a third, the Ships of the Immortal and Brittanian empires started a full retreat in the face of overwhelming firepower, leaving thier dead twisting and stretching to the whims of the vacuum - and on the last, the power levels of the weapon reaching its full power.
He opened a channel to the weapon once more - his heart heavy.
"I am afraid it is time commander - we have no other choice" He said, bluntly - hating every word that came out of his mouth.
"I know sire, I have no regrets" The commander replied.
"Your sacrifices have not been in vain" The Emperor replied once as he then spoke aloud.
"Fire the weapon."
The commander had enough time to raise a final salute as the energies consumed him, body and soul.
The ship had been a last ditch attempt, so long ago to create a psionic weapon capable of defeating the Shraag once and for all - but the ability to kill of a conciousness that contained the entire galaxy was almost impossible, even to the long extinct creators of the ancient super weapon - but they had eventually managed to find a way to harm it, and with enough harm the entire being would evenetually faulter.
Psionic amplification systems tied through an entire vessel as one massive focusing lense of psionic force - but the only way to power the weapon was with a catalyst - a sacrifice that needed to be made to make the event horizon of a psionically captures black hole - pushed into a beam capable of erasing the Shraag and its thought notes by destroying the pieces that gathered the most focus - the synapses of the greater wholes - the Deathspheres.
The catalysation however - required living sacrifices.
The entire ship was filled with bodies.
Many of them where soldiers from the field - Scythian soldiers, too wounded to carry on the fight and recover - but willing or not, able to help the cause - others where prisoners, taken from hundreds of death row prisons across the galaxy - from every race, those whom society could not repurpose where now being used as ammunition.
Along with terminally Ill.
Those who saw no other path but death.
And those who volenteered.
The ships dark energies swept over them like an endless cascade, killing them and absorbing thier psionic potential - incinerating all organic material and converting thier sentience into a weapon of pure, unbridled hatred - and forcing it through an energy beam capable of cutting through to the beasts very fibres of being.
The Deathsphere fled, but not fast enough . . . it could sence the building power of the ancient weapon, but instead of dragging the entire ship through into phasic space - it instead formed a bubble of phasic energy around part of itself - an old tactic it thought it would never need again, around a lesser core of its waking self, its prize and enough of its minions to get the job done - and shunted the entire section of the ship into another dimension . . . waiting to be collected as the rest of the sphere was cut away like cancerous flesh to the slaughter.
The psionic beam flooded out of the weapon and through the planet before any mortal mind could register the weapon had fired - it incinerated every single spark of life in its path - every Shraag warrior burst into flames at the same time, the Deathsphere attempting to escape orbit exploded outwards into a fireball of apocalyptic proportions - a world that used to cleanse itself of all life finally had its last flicker of false life removed from it as the planets core crumbled upon itself - what little spark of life could be found within a ferrous core of a world of blistering ice.
The planet shattered. A final death throe as the beam continued on its arc.
Directly into the remnants of the Britannian, Immortal and Scythian ships - turning thier crews into dust faster than thier brains could even register the fact that they had died.
Beyond that - the beam continued - into empty space . . . carving a path of nothingness into the void.
The weapons final act complete - the combined fleet stood down - thier part of the battle complete, all they needed to do now, was pick up the pieces.
Loveless awoke, his head pounding with a dull ache beyond words could explain - and all around him was filled with white light.
At first he laid there for a moment, his eyelids closed against the harshness of the light, doing his best to wait for the pain to subside.
In fact it was only getting worse - with the light that wouldn't subside.
The thrumbing of a ships engines.
And Skittering, endless skittering.
He opened his eyes again in panic as he realised both his hands and feet where bound within cold, harsh metal - unmoving and unfeeling - holding him against his will into a solid wall of organic metals.
And the walls around him moved - writhing bodies passed in every direction as he realised he had been taken prisoner by the endless waves of xenomorphic creatures from beneath the ice city - they had killed him, and he had been taken prisoner and entoombed within thier fortress beneath the ice.
He laughed to himself at the futility of it - the very nature of being Immortal is to be un-bound, timeless - an endless rage against the universe that could never be sated, to be killed is to be reborn, and to be reborn is to destroy your enemies.
He looked up from his vantage point to see one of the creatures staring down at him - a face of eyes, organic and not, with chittering spines and teeth making patterns and paths across a slobbering, never closing mouth.
It turned it's head from one side too another.
"You are not of the garden . . . " its voice rasped - as if struggling to use its own, somehow athrophied vocal cords.
"And what gave you that clue?" Loveless spat at the creature with a grin.
"You have skills . . . not of this place . . . and something I need" It replied, almost savoring the sound of its own half-dead voice.
"You are getting nothing from me, you might as well kill me now!" Loveless spat - hoping the creatures had mistaken his own death and rebirth for unconciousness or otherwise.
"Oh I am going too - you are also going to give me exactly what I want"
Loveless froze suddenly - no creature, half insane or not would ever want to intentionally kill an Immortal, even the Scythians knew that any Immortal killed would eventually return.
"You have cost me a great deal" The creature rasped - as all of the other creatures around it stopped and gazed down at Loveless, copying the movements of the first.
"For so long I have been devided amongst puppet bodies - trying to keep my form bound to your pathetic universe so I could regain the garden . . . and I have been cut off from so much, and the form of binding leaves me both stronger and weaker for it"
It was only now that Loveless noticed that all of the creatures had stopped - and they where all beginning to talk.
The same words - the same tone - at the same time.
"I am the Shraag - the end of life, I am the beauty of murder and the lord of entropy - but being banished to this universe left me weakened, as these replacable forms die - so does a piece of myself."
The creatures skittered towards him, a hoard of slicing and cutting limbs that began tearing at Loveless's flesh - tearing chunks of skin, muscle and bone from him at the same time to counter his healing reflex - all pouring towards the same goal.
"I am going to erase you, mind and soul - and your body will be my new binding - immune from death . . . and then your flesh vessel will lead me to your emperor! and I will be across this Universe and Immortal! FOR ALL TIME!'
Loveless screamed and writhed against the torrent of limbs as they found thier goal - and the alien technologies revealed the Immortal core embedded within his chest - while he was still alive as dark whisps of another being poured from the background of the thousands of creatures and into the open core.
It moved quickly, corrupting its purpose and re-forging it into the Shraags own image - while pouring its entire being into the head of one man, writing one mind over another and leaving nothing but shredded remains of the first.
Hours later - the new beings wounds where healed, it tested its new strengths and energies and marvelled at its own infallible nature . . .
. . . and the remains of the Deathsphere emerged into realspace at another world, and the cycle had begun anew.
Days had passed since the initial assault had taken place, and only now where the various nations of the galaxy beginning to pick through the pieces.
The Scythian Empire had sent a second wave fleet in order to secure the rough and blasted world, only to find that Ereberus had been split asunder by some massive catastrophy, and the remains of the planet where ripping each other apart, the atmosphere had been shredded clean off the surface of the world, the Ice that once covered its surface had been melted into gas by its self-sterilizing sun and was forming into a halo of frozen icey particles in the midst of the now ever growing asteroid field that used to be a desolate world.
Automated probes and tugs moved slowly through tumbling rocks and debris as ships where pulled out of the dead battlefield - remnants of Britannian, Immortal and Scythian vessels alike - and soon a space station was dragged into the system via FTL to aide in the decompiling of black boxes, retrieval of enemy technologies and the proper burial of the dead.
Immortal and Brittanian ships alike probed their defences, but found little sway or interest in the Scythian efforts to pillage through the wrecks - instead only setting off automated self destruct systems on the most valuable of ships and then leaving - fearing the Scythian forces would use thier newly found super-weapon against them.
A super-weapon that had long since been taken away from the field.
This entire effort was set up by one man, the one man who had set himself up as de-facto "Emperor" of the Scythian Empire in the original failures stead.
The head of the Scythian Office of Naval Intelligence.
He of course was worlds away - watching live feeds of the retrieval efforts from the homeworld itself - deep within layers of automated and manned defences, enveloping shields and space stations and the single largest defence fleet in the entire Empire.
In the power vacuum of the Emperors shift exit, he had been the first to apply his power, suggestions through underlings that then lead to his equals and superiors - setting himself up in the seat of power he needed for his plans, acquiring access to the single most top secret part of the Scythians history.
He had long known before others that Scythia's sucsess had been built upon the shoulders of others - it it wasn't for the ancient superbattleship buried within the Blade moon of Scythia, the empire would have never discovered its advanced Anti-matter technologies - or the secrets of the FTL drive that allowed them to expand beyond the reached of those with traditional Hyperspace drives, or even thier advanced Laser technologies . . .
. . . but that wasn't all they found. Buried within the systems of the ancient ship where records of another world known as "Eerf" which had been involved somehow, in an ancient war between fleets of red and black vessels that had devastated the cosmos.
Ships that now matched current Scythian and Immortal ship classes.
The vessel itself now brought into question - as research matched its hull pattern to that of the Preatorian Exodus siege dreadnaught - but with massive levels of alterations . . . but the ships hull was un-mistakable.
He frowned to himself as he delved further into the archives.
Relics and artefacts that should never have existed in this universe, weapons and ships designed to weather through the end of an entire universe, scattered across the stars as if left, for the races of today to discover.
The Emperor himself had been present in the battle with one of those weapons - something that should have been impounded on the far edges of the Mousetrap system, and far beyond prying eyes, in his travels he had somehow stolen hundreds of artefacts from under the noses of his own intelligence services through a mixture of his own intelligence networks, loyallist troops, brute force and subterfuge for a cause he couldn't begin to understand.
He began a series of checks and double checks - and then ordered every single artefact and item that KINGUNDERTHEMOUNTAIN had in thier possession moved to a new, secure location - one of his disgression . . . anything that couldn't be moved was to either be locked down or destroyed by a controlled Anti-matter blast as appropriate.
And then he re-opened another file - one that he had been working on for months - if not years.
One file contained the entire Genoan and Scythian gene-sequence, with associated links to psionic capabilities, another - the vauge few files on Immortal cores, and a third was a single image of the galaxy - linked by some form of massive psychic field that was apparently growing slowly in power every day - with strands reaching outwards from the galaxy towards red marker arrows.
The few confirmed inbound Immortal fleets.
He looked from one file to another - knowing that soon his plans would come to pass.
Total control of the universe would be his, there would be no mistake.
He never made mistakes.
He smiled to himself, with a self-satisified huff.
He never, made mistakes.
-- FIN --